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Julmiste vows USF offense will improve
By GREG AUMAN
Published January 2, 2006
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Saturday's 14-0 loss to North Carolina State in the Meineke Car Care Bowl reaffirmed some of the steady truths of USF's up-and-down season. The Bulls' vastly improved defense was strong enough to get them to their first bowl, but unprecedented struggles on offense kept them from doing much more than that.
Five times, USF was held to 13 points or fewer; in the previous four years of Division I-A football, the Bulls were that anemic just six times. The root of USF's offensive problems was an inability to establish a downfield passing game to keep defenses from stacking up against running back Andre Hall.
"You've got to be balanced," quarterback Pat Julmiste said after completing 8 of 25 passes, with three completions in the final two minutes. "Obviously we wanted to get Andre going, but if you're not balanced, it's going to be tough."
That's USF's 2005 offense - and a well-balanced 6-6 record - in a nutshell. For the second straight season, the Bulls passed for just eight touchdowns, with only one in the final six games.
USF's defense was improved from 2004, allowing 18 points per game - the Bulls' lowest average since 1998 - after giving up 31.9 last season. With a defense that typically started only four seniors, USF ranked seventh nationally in pass defense, 14th in scoring defense and 19th in total defense.
Julmiste, who will return as a senior, took the blame for Saturday's offensive malaise, saying it will motivate him to work harder in the offseason, especially with his receivers. None of USF's quarterbacks or receivers is graduating.
"You're going to see a different group next season," Julmiste said. "It's going to be a big offseason for me."
Passes that were completed rarely went for long yardage. Only freshman receiver Marcus Edwards, who caught four passes, averaged more than 14 yards. Last season, with largely the same offensive cast, five Bulls averaged at least that much. In USF's first six seasons, its leading quarterback averaged 15.7 touchdowns; in the past three years, it's seven.
The struggles extended to Hall, a senior who faced the undistracted focus of opposing defenses. As a junior, he had at least 4 yards per carry in every game; as a senior, he fell short of that five times. He rushed for 202 fewer yards in the final five games of 2005 than in the same span a year ago, despite more carries.
Redshirt freshman Ricky Ponton showed promise as Hall's top backup, and freshman Moise Plancher has drawn praise from coaches while redshirting.
Asked about changes for his offense - in personnel or philosophy - coach Jim Leavitt had no answer after Saturday's loss.
"I have no idea," Leavitt said. "After the Louisville game (a 45-14 win), I'd say no, after today, I'd say a lot. I haven't thought about it. But we just lost, and we've got to get moving the ball."