Heading into the Bulls’ Week 1 matchup with Western Carolina, coach Willie Taggart still has questions about how his team will handle the struggles associated with a regular season game.
“The one thing I worry about is how people are going to respond to adversity,” Taggart said. “You don’t get that until the season starts and it’s going to happen. That’s what got us last year.”
The team looks to have a much better showing in its opening game this season after a devastating 53-21 loss to McNeese State to open last season. Senior defensive tackle Todd Chandler said the Bulls overlooked the Cowboys last year and vow to be solely focused on Game 1, heading into 2014.
“Last year we kind of looked over McNeese State and were focused on the Michigan State game,” Chandler said. “We’re treating this game like we’re playing Florida State, like this is the biggest game on our schedule.”
The Bulls are far removed from their days of a packed house at Raymond James Stadium, but are striving to win back their fans and give them a reason to fill the seats.
“(The crowd) will come,” Taggart said. “When they come we want them to be loud, we want them to help us, we want it to be like the opposing team’s fan base when we go play them. Our guys are locked in to do our job and do our part to win that support back and pack Ray Jay.”
USF aims to not only regain its fan base, but also re-establish its identity as a force in college football. The Bulls have gone 10-26 since their last winning season in 2010.
“(USF) is not in a place where we can just say we’re going to go in and beat up on anyone,” Taggart said. “We have to earn that (respect) back.”
Senior Chris Dunkley, who was recently named the starting cornerback, began the year on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage as wide receiver. The switch enables him to use his speed and ball skills as well as his knowledge of the opposing position within the defense.
It also doesn’t hurt to have the competitive mindset that he brings to the team.
“I don’t just go into a game running off at the mouth,” Dunkley said. “I go into the game with the mindset that you’re not going to win. I’m a good receiver, so when I’m guarding another receiver I think ‘you’re not a better receiver than me.’”
The Bulls look to overshadow last year’s season opening blunder as they take on Western Carolina at 7 p.m. Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.