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A look at the opponent: South Florida Bulls

<p>Paxton Lynch will hope to have similar success against the USF defense in 2015. He threw for 232 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-20 victory over the Bulls last season.&nbsp;</p>
Paxton Lynch will hope to have similar success against the USF defense in 2015. He threw for 232 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-20 victory over the Bulls last season. 

The University of Memphis football team will look to continue its 11-game winning streak Friday as they travel to Tampa, Florida, to take on the USF Bulls.

The Bulls will open their conference slate at 1-2 on the season, coming off two tough losses against the no. 11 ranked Florida State Seminoles (34-14) and Maryland Terrapins (35-17).

USF coach Willie Taggart, who is in his sixth season, said despite his team’s record, the Bulls are fully capable of having a successful year.

“It’s our first conference game,” Taggart said. “We’re 1-2, but all of our goals that we set out for the season are still on the table for us. It’s a great opportunity for us to take the next step in accomplishing those goals, and that goal is to win our conference and win our division. This is one of those first steps. We got them at home, Friday night in primetime and it doesn’t get any better than that.”

The Bulls’ offense has averaged a little over 376 yards per game this season. Taggart has made the ground game a priority this year, as the Bulls have racked up 664 yards through 132 carries, compared to just 466 yards through the air with only 72 passing attempts.

Sophomore running back Marlon Mack—who ran for 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns as a true freshman in 2014—continues his strong career for the Bulls with 285 yards and a touchdown on the year. Mack has rushed for more than 70 yards in every game this season, including a touchdown and 131 yards in USF’s 51-3 victory against Florida A&M.

In USF’s 35-17 loss to Maryland, Mack averaged 5.9 yards per carry, while posting 71 yards on only 12 touches. In Taggart’s weekly press conference, he addressed that 12 carries was way too few and that they did not get Mack involved nearly enough against Maryland. Memphis should expect Mack to have a full workload when the Tigers and the Bulls face off Friday.

Even though USF is a run-first offense, sophomore quarterback Quinton Flowers makes the most of it by showing off his dual threat capabilities. Flowers thrives in the run game as he averages 62 rushing yards per game. Flowers has rushed for 186 yards (second most on the team) and has a team-high two touchdowns this year. He has accounted for 326 passing yards, five passing touchdowns and three interceptions as well.

D’Ernest Johnson, a sophomore running back, is arguably USF’s most versatile weapon on offense. When it comes to the ground game, Johnson is the fourth option behind Mack, Flowers and junior running back Darius Tice (143 yards and a touchdown this year), but through the air Johnson has become Flowers’ favorite and most reliable target. Johnson leads the team in receptions (10), receiving yards (193) and receiving touchdowns (4) so far this season.

Defense has been USF’s forte through its first three games, allowing just 344.7 yards per game, ranking second in the American Athletic Conference in total defense.

The Bulls come in at third in the conference in passing defense, allowing just 210 passing yards per game. They also only give up 134.7 yards per game on the ground.

Taggart’s squad has been extremely efficient in limiting first downs as well. The Bulls have allowed their opponents just 16.7 first owns per game, a mark good enough for first in the American and ninth in the nation.

A big reason for the Bulls success defensively is their ability to get into the backfield and bring down the ball carrier before the play develops. USF ranks 14th in the nation in tackles for loss, averaging 8.3 per game.

The defensive line has emerged as the most impressive unit by far this season for the Bulls and surprisingly so. USF lost its top three defensive lineman from a season ago in Todd Chandler, Elkino Watson and Derrick Calloway.

Despite these departures, the defensive line continues to impress. Of the defense’s 25 tackles for loss, the defensive line has accounted for 18 of them to go along with all seven of the team’s sacks.

Leading the way for the defense is defensive tackle Deadrin Senat. The sophomore leads his team with 19 tackles on the year (a career-high) as well as 2.5 tackles for loss. Senat posted two consecutive career games with eight tackles against Florida State and nine tackles against Maryland.

Coming off a bye week, junior safety Nate Godwin said his team has had plenty of time to prepare for Memphis’s high-powered offense and said it is time to show it on the big stage when the two face off in a nationally televised matchup on ESPN2.

“Every time you get a chance to be on national television, it’s a big-time game for your program,” he said. “Everybody is watching, so we’ve got to show up, show out. We have to take the opportunity to not only win, but show our brand off to the nation.”

Paxton Lynch will hope to have similar success against the USF defense in 2015. He threw for 232 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-20 victory over the Bulls last season. 

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