USF’s seniors are starting to see the end of the road with only two guarantees left starting with Memphis.
“This year went by so fast,” senior defensive tackle Todd Chandler said. “I’ll never forget last year, Julius Forte would always say, ‘Time’s going by so fast,’ and I’d say, ‘No it’s not, man, I’m tired.’ Now, I’m in his shoes.”
Chandler has been at USF for five seasons after redshirting his freshman year. When he walked out to his first practice, things were just a bit different.
“Yeah (I remember), way over there,” Chandler said, pointing to what is now the recreation fields and where the team used to practice. “I tell the young guys, this used to be a dirt hill and we used to have to walk all the way down there across that field, through the woods and through the gate. It was like a half-mile journey.”
Chandler is not the only one who is feeling the time slip through his grasp. Senior linebacker Reshard Cliett knows his time with USF is coming to an end.
“It’s definitely getting emotional,” Cliett said. “I told my guys, ‘We only have a couple more weeks left together.’ I’ve been here five years and it’s getting emotional, but I’m ready.”
The duo will have their hands full this week with a Memphis team that holds the top spot in the conference.
“They have a good quarterback, a guy that’s been there for a long time,” Cliett said. “They also have a good O-line full of guys that have been there for a long time. They’re a disciplined team that has played together for a while.”
Memphis has averaged a conference-best 188 rushing yards per game in 10 games this season. USF has had trouble stopping spread offenses similar to Memphis’, but has been able to limit the big plays.
“They’re not doing anything silly,” defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan said. “They’ve done a good job managing the ball and getting explosive plays. They take their shots down field off play action, but it’s a good offense and we’re looking forward to the
Stopping this potent offense will be a handful, but the Tigers’ No. 28 ranked defense will make it even harder on the Bulls.
Memphis allows 346 yards per game and holds teams to 17 points per game.
USF’s offense averages just over 300 yards and 18 points per game, while allowing 400 yards and 27 points.
“If you can stop the run, that eliminates the play-action pass,” Bresnahan said. “That’s our major goal: stop the run.”
USF’s run game has been the offense’s crutch so far this season and although freshman Marlon Mack has been the premier back, fellow freshman D’Ernest Johnson is starting to steal the spotlight.
With the Bulls down 13-0 late in the game against SMU on Saturday, Johnson caught a short pass from sophomore quarterback Mike White and was able to shed two tacklers and barrel into the end zone to give USF its first points of the game and his first career touchdown.
“You watch (Johnson) in those pressure situations and it’s all natural,” coach Willie Taggart said. “He just enjoys football and making plays, and it’s fun to watch.”
USF travels to Memphis on Saturday to take on the Tigers at 4 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPNews.