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UNDRAFTED

Bulls Charge to Victory: USF's Resilient Triumph Marks a Turning Point

This victory marked the end of an 11-game losing streak that had plagued the Bulls since their 42-20 victory against Howard

TAMPA — In the wake of a season-opening display of unmistakable progress, the USF Bulls took to the field on Saturday night with a vertical resurgence that echoed their climb back to relevance. Their hard-fought 38-24 victory over Florida A&M was a conquest nearly a year in the making. First-year head coach Alex Golesh, basking in his inaugural triumph, emphasized the importance of a process-driven approach: "I said it from the very beginning when I got here: It has to become process-driven here. I feel more today than I ever did that we're laying a foundation. And I know the expectation is to win; it's my expectation as well as certainly it should be everybody else's. But there has to be a foundation laid, in anything." This victory marked the end of an 11-game losing streak that had plagued the Bulls since their 42-20 victory against Howard on September 10, 2022. The next challenge on their ascent is to break the 17-game skid against Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opposition. However, this endeavor may remain elusive if the Bulls continue their flagrant penalty woes (accumulating more than 200 penalty yards in two games) and struggle with pass protection (allowing 11 sacks in two contests). Yet, it could also become a reality later in the month if they demonstrate the same resilience and capitalize on opportunities as they did in Golesh's home debut. One thing is clear about Golesh's team: they know how to rebound. This resilience was on full display, especially in the fourth quarter when Florida A&M quarterback Jeremy Moussa, a Vanderbilt transfer, narrowed the deficit to 31-24 with a 45-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Dean. The Bulls responded emphatically when 18-year-old quarterback Byrum Brown, enjoying a rare clean pocket, connected with Naiem Simmons on a 31-yard scoring pass on fourth and 6. Coach Golesh revealed the thought process behind the decision, saying, "It's like you're right outside of where we feel like field-goal range is. That one I went back and forth a bunch... We looked to see what the look was to make sure we got the right play into it. Liked the matchup, certainly liked Naiem executing." Logan Berryhill's interception of Moussa with 2:08 remaining sealed the deal for the Bulls. The Bulls' ability to rebound was not limited to the final moments; it mirrored their response to adversity early in the game. After allowing Florida A&M to score effortlessly on a six-play, 78-yard opening drive, the Bulls countered with a 75-yard drive of their own. This eight-play sequence showcased a balance of offensive prowess and a breakneck tempo that tied the score. Coach Golesh praised his team's composure, saying, "I think when they score first, you want to see your team not flinch and just continue to play the next play." Throughout the game, the Bulls displayed defensive opportunism, forcing five turnovers, and a calculated approach on fourth downs, converting two out of four attempts. This aggressive yet calculated style of play was a noticeable improvement from their season-opening loss to Western Kentucky, where they failed to force any turnovers. For all their moments of chutzpah, the Bulls still faced challenges, including penalties that aided Florida A&M's drives. Coach Golesh acknowledged that these issues were part of the learning curve for his young team, saying, "It's just game experience, and that's not necessarily what you want to hear, but it's the truth." In the end, the Bulls secured their victory with a 53-yard ground assault that extended their lead to 31-17. Brown's 13-yard touchdown run showcased his ability to escape pressure and make plays when needed. Brown finished the game with 220 total yards, completing 20 of 34 passes for 197 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. Coach Golesh emphasized the team's identity after two weeks of play: "Our identity, I can tell you from two weeks is, we're going to fly around and play really, really hard. Man, that's awesome. That, to me, is a foundation." Despite some imperfections, Coach Golesh's message to his team remains clear: "We've got to continue to pour into our foundation — attitude, effort, our process, everything. It's certainly not perfect, and we've got to continue to chase perfection in that."

Erick Truong

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Saturday, September 9, 2023

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