For the first time in a month, USF is trying to dig out of the wrong side of the win-loss column.
As the Bulls (4-4, 2-2) prepare for Saturday night’s showdown at East Carolina, they have to bounce back from a tough loss. What used to be the narrative around Raymond James Stadium has recently become something new.
Following a 29-17 loss at Navy in which the Bulls led until late in the fourth quarter, USF now has to regroup with its three-game winning streak snapped.
“(There is) no more margin for error if we want to get what we want,” coach Willie Taggart said. “We want to win this conference. We want to be able to play in the first championship game and we want to win it, and that’s on us to do that. But it all starts (Saturday) against East Carolina.”
The Bulls can’t let the late-game mistakes from last week linger as the regular season nears its conclusion.
USF must win two of its last four games to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.
“I stress to the seniors that they have only four more guaranteed games,” Taggart said. “So, enjoy your teammates and go out there and play every one like it’s your last, because this is a time you’re going to remember the rest of your life.
“We still have all of our goals there and all of them are Eastern Division games, so there’s a heightened sense of urgency about a lot of things because so much is on the line for us.”
The Bulls are set to face a stout, athletic defense that reminds Taggart of his own.
“They’re a talented group that can make some things happen,” he said.
The Pirates (4-5, 2-3) are coming off a 31-13 loss at Connecticut on Friday where they failed to score a touchdown in the first three quarters.
Their two-quarterback system faltered in the loss, combining for four interceptions and no touchdowns against the Huskies.
Taggart, however, said he is focused on his own team, hoping the rest will fall into place.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but it all goes back to us,” Taggart said. “It’s got to be about us, and us executing efficiently enough and making the plays that we know we’re capable of doing.”
One positive for USF is that sophomore quarterback Quinton Flowers has a full bill of health after dealing with a thigh contusion during the Navy game.
“I was thinking about the injury I had and I shouldn’t,” Flowers said. “By going back and looking at that film, we played pretty good. I just messed up on a lot of reads that I had when I should have gave in or sometimes, when I should have pulled it.
“I fought myself on offense and I can’t do it again.”
Taggart said the sophomore’s leadership will be key down the stretch.
“The guys watch me a lot,” Flowers said. “ … I want to do something better every week.”