Although it’s being billed as the Bulls’ first home game against a non-conference BCS opponent, Saturday’s game against North Carolina isn’t the first.
Prior to joining the Big East in 2005, USF hosted Pittsburgh in its final game of 2004 as a member of Conference USA.
What’s significant about this week’s contest is the Bulls’ eagerness to prove their ranking wasn’t a fluke, after moving into the polls during a bye week. One of the biggest factors for USF’s rankings has been its play on defense.
Entering the season, one of the biggest questions facing the Bulls (2-0) involves the outside linebacker positions. Juniors Brouce Mompremier and Tyrone McKenzie have the difficult task of replacing Stephen Nicholas and Pat St. Louis.
“Of course we have the toughest roles because coach Leavitt talks about us losing two great leaders and I know he’s talking directly to us,” Mompremier said. “I love the fact that Tyrone is out there because he reminds me a lot of (Nicholas) because he has so much energy.”
McKenzie has previously demonstrated his abilities while at Iowa State, finishing eighth in the country with 129 tackles. He ranks third on the team with 16 tackles this season and has recovered a fumble.
Production from McKenzie was expected, but Mompremier has made an even bigger impact on the team. He leads the Bulls with 20 tackles, including a team-high 13 solo.
“I think it’s taken everyone else by surprise, but I knew the ability that I had and I just knew to be patient,” Mompremier said.
Mompremier’s tackles have doubled his career total during his first two seasons, playing primarily on special teams.
Although he was part of last season’s 37-20 victory over the Tar Heels, Mompremier knows of one addition to North Carolina (1-2) that has made them a much different team.
“I see more talent from last year. They’re a much better team now,” Mompremier said. It’s huge that they have (head coach) Butch Davis.”
Davis joins North Carolina after spending six years with the Miami Hurricanes and four seasons with the Cleveland Browns.
As a Miami native,
Mompremier saw the impact Davis can make on a team, even though he didn’t root for his hometown team.
“Growing up, I was a Florida State fan and people didn’t like it,” Mompremier said. “They couldn’t understand how I grew up in Miami and rooted for the Seminoles. I didn’t really like them, but I always watched and respected Miami.”
Along with the arrival of Davis, the Tar Heels also boast a more efficient offense than what the Bulls saw last season.
Quarterback T.J. Yates has thrown for 562 yards and six touchdowns. North Carolina has outscored its opponents 88-70 this season and rank 19th in the nation with 303.3 passing yards per game.
Virginia was able to hold off the Tar Heels for a 22-20 victory last week by maintaining possession for nearly 40 minutes. Keeping North Carolina’s offense on the sideline is a goal the Bulls defense has set.
“It’s very important because they’re explosive,” Mompremier said. “They’re one of those big play teams. We just have to keep them off the field and we’ll win.”