September 27, 2005

Smith's aggressive attack pays off

Stick to the running game. Grind out long drives. Don't get caught in a shootout. The offensive game plan against Louisville is always supposed to be conservative.

South Florida offensive coordinator Rod Smith took the reverse approach. Smith looked to score quickly, calling risky reverses and a big trick play that all put the ball in the hands of a little-used receiver. The result was a 31-point lead for the Bulls three minutes into the third quarter, which led to a 45-14 blowout over the then-No. 9 Cardinals, who entered the game as a 20-point favorite. It is the most shocking upset of the season so far and earned Smith Rivals.com's Coordinator of the Week.

"We wanted to stay aggressive," said Smith, who was promoted to USF's offensive coordinator in the offseason after four seasons as the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach. "Louisville is too good of a football team to sit back and slow things down. All week long we talked about being aggressive and going after them. We felt we had some mismatches we could take advantage of and we were going to let our athletes play."

That was obvious by the Bulls second offensive play. Pat Julmiste fired a deep throw to Amarri Jackson, who hauled it in for a 57-yard reception that set up a 1-yard touchdown plunge from Andre Hall.

Two drives later, Jackson took a reverse up the right side of the field 51 yards to put the Bulls (2-2, 1-0 Big East) up 14-0. On the Bulls next possession, the 6-foot-5 wideout took a reverse up the left side 13 yards for a 21-0 edge. He entered the game with two catches for 15 yards.

Smith used Jackson's early success on the ground to bait the Cardinals defense and seal the biggest win in school history. After Chad Simpson returned the second-half kickoff 94 yards to put the Bulls up 31-7, Jackson took another handoff from Julmiste. But this time, he paused behind the line of scrimmage and fired a pass to a wide-open Derek Carter for an 11-yard touchdown catch.

"It didn't surprise me," Smith said of Jackson's performance. "He's young and still learning the game, but athleticism has its advantages and we definitely want to make sure he touches the ball."

Louisville actually ended up having the ball for almost eight minutes more than USF, but the Bulls' big plays were just too much to overcome. Smith's offense ended up matching the Cardinals (2-1, 0-1) with a 6.2 yards per play average and racked up 5.3 yards per rush.

Much of that production can be attributed to Hall. Normally the Bulls main offensive weapon, he didn't have a big game, rushing for a modest 83 yards on 22 carries. But, he touched the ball on five of the team's first seven plays, forcing the Cardinals to pay a little extra attention to him.

"We wanted to establish Andre as quick as possible," Smith said. "Then, it was up to our skill players and thank goodness they made some plays."

Other than Jackson, USF's receivers didn't have to do much. The Bulls attempted just 10 passes the entire game - although they did get two pass interference calls - and consequently never had to worry much about Cardinals star defensive end Elvis Dumervil. The pass-rush specialist entered the game with an NCAA-record nine sacks in his first two games, but didn't even manage a quarterback hit against the Bulls.

"(Dumervil) didn't get a sack on us last year either," Smith noted. "This year we have two new tackles and we double-teamed him a couple of times early on, but mostly left him in one-on-one situations."

Here are some other coordinators who excelled this past week:

• Minnesota's highly regarded running game is getting even better under Mitch Browning, who took over as the Gophers offensive coordinator this season after sharing the position for the previous four years. The Gophers (4-0, 1-0) racked up 301 yards on the ground on what was the nation's top-ranked run defense in their 42-35 win over then-No. 11 Purdue (2-1, 0-1) in double overtime. Heisman candidate Laurence Maroney did most of that damage, going for 217 yards on 46 carries - both career-highs. Browning has also been able to develop a sidekick for Maroney. Gary Russell picked up 75 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns.

• Ohio State's longtime defensive line coach Jim Heacock took over as the defensive coordinator this season and the move looked brilliant in the Buckeyes' 31-6 rout against Iowa (2-2, 0-1) in Columbus. The Hawkeyes finished with just 137 total yards and -9 yards on the ground. The Buckeyes (3-1, 1-0) managed to get constant pressure on quarterback Drew Tate, who was sacked five times and went just 22-of-39 for 146 yards and an interception.

• Few offenses have looked better than Michigan State's so far. The Spartans (4-0, 1-0), led by offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin, racked up 705 total yards in a 61-14 thrashing at Illinois (2-2, 0-1). Heisman candidate Drew Stanton fired a school-record five touchdown passes, including four in the first half. The Spartans have scored at least 40 points in all four of their games.



 

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