With 2:23 left in the fourth quarter Saturday afternoon, USF found itself up six points and tasked with stopping quarterback Brady White and the high-powered Memphis offense one last time.
White led the Tigers down the field on a virtually flawless 76-yard drive that was capped off with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Austin III.
Memphis took the lead, and that score would prove to be the difference-maker, as USF went on to lose 34-33 in a heartbreaking defeat that dropped the Bulls to 1-6 overall and 0-5 in conference play.
Despite USF’s frustrating record, coach Jeff Scott believes the team is trending in the right direction.
“Obviously we haven’t gotten the results, to this point, that we want,” Scott said Tuesday. “But I do believe that that will come.
“The reason I’m confident in that is [because of] the change that I’ve seen within our locker room. Sometimes you have to go through adversity to really get to the point where change takes place.”
There has been no shortage of adversity for the Bulls this season. From players being unavailable due to COVID-19 situations, to late-game collapses, it seems that there’s been a bump in the road for USF all season long.
However, Scott is looking at those moments of adversity as opportunities to learn, opportunities to achieve goals that he set forth for himself and his staff before the season began.
“One of the biggest goals for this season for myself, and our staff, especially since we didn’t get spring practice… was to clearly establish the standards, clearly establish the foundation and culture that’s expected,” Scott said.
A season like this gives Scott and his staff the opportunity to set these standards, to begin building the culture that he desires in his football team.
“When you go through a season like we’re going through right now it gives you a lot of opportunities to teach, and to learn and to understand the expectation and how we’re going to do things,” he said.
Scott also gave credit to the players for responding well, despite the challenges this season has presented to them.
“That’s really what gives me a lot of hope and optimism, I just feel like our guys have been very resilient,” Scott said. “If you watched the way our guys played for three and a half quarters last week, it looked more like a 5-1 team than a 1-5 team.”
Freshman running back Brian Battie, who rushed for 76 yards Saturday, also thinks the team is moving in the right direction.
“I like the way that we’re moving,” Battie said. “I think that everything will click together pretty soon. I’m going to just keep giving my all for my teammates and the coaches and do what I can do and continue to do that every week.”
Scott also specifically gave praise to quarterback Noah Johnson for his leadership in the locker room.
“Noah’s a guy, since the day he got here, he’s been one of our leaders,” Scott said. “He’s got positive energy all the time, the guys rally around him.”
Scott said he wants more players like Johnson to continue to build the USF team culture.
“I want as many of those guys in our locker room and on the field as we possibly can have,” he said.
As the season winds down, Scott hopes that his team can maintain the positive attitude they’ve displayed thus far.
“I don’t expect our guys to change now, that’s really what I’ve challenged them on,” Scott said. “They’ve really shown up just about every week with the right attitude, showed up to practice no matter the good or bad from the week before.
“Here, as we finish up our last few games of the season, that’s my expectation. Is to continue to see us improve and hopefully find a way to win a couple of these games.”