USF may have scheduled its toughest opponent of the year for Homecoming week in No. 20 Louisville.
With a Heisman candidate in junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater featured on a Louisville offense that scores an average of 40.1 points per game, USF’s defense will have its work cut out for it.
But for one Bull, there was more to worry about than just the explosive Cardinals (6-1, 2-1).
Brandon Salinas, a senior cornerback, had been running for Homecoming king, but lost Wednesday night at the Homecoming Ball.
As a football player, Salinas said his campaigning efforts were minimal because of his athletic commitments.
“Compared to a lot of other people running, I’m sure my campaigning is pretty low,” he said.
If his coaches thought it would conflict with football though, Salinas said he wouldn’t have run for Homecoming king.
“I’m using it as a way to bridge USF Athletics and the campus,” he said. “I noticed there’s a gap and I want to kill a lot of stereotypes.”
But the Bulls (2-4, 2-0), along with Salinas, said they’re ready for the challenge with Louisville and Bridgewater on Saturday, riding a two-game win streak.
USF defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan said it helps seeing the Heisman-hopeful six weeks into the season, given that the Bulls have a first-year coaching staff.
“Bridgewater’s a guy who’s been around the block,” he said. “He understands coverage and pre-reads what you’re doing before the snap.”
Bresnahan said he loves the challenge of facing a high-octane Cardinals offense and slowing down Louisville’s offensive scheme requires a well-prepared defense.
“They combine the run game with the play action to set up the deep shots,” he said. “You have to be prepared for pretty much anything.”
Salinas agreed, saying it’s a key every week to avoid the deep play.
“It’s not even what Teddy does,” he said. “Quarterbacks want to take shots deep. They try to get big plays or maybe a pass interference.”
While Bresnahan will be seeing Bridgewater and the Cardinals for the first time, several veteran Bulls defenders have played the Cardinals before, and know what to expect.
Redshirt junior linebacker Reshard Cliett sacked Bridgewater two seasons ago.
Cliett said he wants another shot at Bridgewater out of USF’s blitz packages.
“I want to be on the blitz all the time really,” Cliett said. “Hopefully we can get opportunities to get pressure on him.”
USF will have to be wary of the play action. Cliett said he and his teammates who have played Louisville before know the Cardinals like to establish the run to set up for play-action fakes.
While this may be Bresnahan’s first time taking on the Cardinals, the noon kickoff will have two former Big East competitors going head to head — Louisville looking to bounce back from a loss to UCF as the Bulls look to go 3-0 in the conference.