USF’s ability to create 16 turnovers might be one of the main reasons for its 5-0 undefeated start.
USF defensive coordinator Joe Tresey’s philosophy of creating three turnovers per game has hit home with his players the last two games, with USF forcing seven turnovers against Syracuse and four against FSU.
“Our goal for the defense is to create three turnovers each game,” said senior defensive end George Selvie. “We need to get those turnovers this week and then turn it around and create scoring opportunities.”
Tonight’s game will be different against No. 8 Cincinnat, though, as the Bulls host one of the nation’s top offenses at 7:30 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium.
In 2007, Cincinnati defeated USF 38-33, with the Bearcats forcing eight turnovers while the Bulls’ defense only managed two. Under Tresey, who spent the last two seasons with the Bearcats, their defense forced 42 turnovers in 2007 and 22 turnovers in 2008, putting them among the nation’s best.
USF, now No. 5 nationally in scoring defense and No. 10 in total defense, is emphasizing the importance of turnovers.
“We have to create turnovers whether we are playing a (nationally) ranked team or not,” Tresey said. “As a coach, that is the menu for any game we go into.”
It might not be easy, as Cincinnati ranks No. 11 in the country in total offense and has only given up the ball twice in the last five games.
“We have to continue to strip (the ball) even though they have extremely good ball security,” Tresey said.
Cincinnati scored a total of 65 points in the last two games.
In those games, the offense averaged 27.5 points and 395.5 total yards per game. In their Big East title run last year, the Bearcats scored 25.9 points and racked up 370.6 yards per contest.
The Bearcats are No. 1 in the Big East in total offense this year, so getting pressure on Pike is a must, Tresey said.
“We are going to have to throw Pike off rhythm, especially when he is in a progression sequence,” he said.
The Bulls only have allowed 9.4 points per game this season and have 13 sacks in five games.
The last time Cincinnati came to Tampa, Selvie had one of his best games in the past two seasons, totaling seven tackles – four of which were for losses. Selvie also forced a fumble and blocked a field goal in the fourth quarter.
Selvie and the USF defense will have to set the tone for this game if the Bulls, who haven’t beaten the Bearcats in three years, plan to stay undefeated, Tresey said.
“Our front four is the key to this game,” Tresey said. “At the end of the day, if those front four can dominate the line of scrimmage, everyone’s job gets a little easier.”