Lessons learned from strong finish
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 22:09
Two games into the 2012 season, the USF football team’s defense has seen both sides of the spectrum — an experience that could prove to be priceless as the season continues.
A year after the Bulls lost five games by six points or fewer, the team looked to gain experience in close games, proving their ability to come through in the fourth quarter. Senior quarterback B.J. Daniels said the late win over Nevada gave the Bulls a chance to win the kind of game they could not win in 2011.
In the same way, the team’s defense has proven its ability to close out a game, even if its start is not ideal.
After dominating an overmatched Tennessee-Chattanooga offense to open the season, the Bulls were the ones who were dominated last week.
Led by sophomore quarterback Cody Fajardo, Nevada marched down the field on the first three drives, scoring 21 points in the first quarter before the Bulls hunkered down, holding Nevada to 10 points in the final three quarters.
“There were some ups and downs. They were really going at us for a little bit in the first three drives of the game,” senior linebacker Sam Barrington said. “But I think after that we kind of settled in, we changed momentum at some points, and we were fortunate that our offense was able to produce so much.”
Coach Skip Holtz proved his trust in the defense despite its slow start in Reno, giving his defense opportunities when keeping his offense on the field was an option.
With just over seven minutes remaining in the game, and the team down 11 points, Holtz called for a punt on four and 10 with his offense 47 yards from a momentum swinging touchdown. The defense responded by forcing Nevada to punt after five and three plays in the next two drives.
“I like the way we finished. We didn’t start real good, but I like the way we responded,” defensive coordinator Chris Cosh said. “One of the things we wanted to show was our ability to come back and win a close game, and getting stops at the end were crucial, getting a couple of turnovers. We didn’t get any turnovers in the first game, so it was good to get some this time.”
With high-powered offenses led by mobile quarterbacks like Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Cincinnati’s Munchie LeGaux on the horizon, the Bulls will face situations much like their experience at MacKay Stadium. Barrington said the statistics the Wolf Pack managed to rack up will be a learning point for the Bulls.
“I definitely pay attention to statistics because Coach Holtz has a plan for us and we don’t want a team to be able to rush for that many yards on us or be so efficient on third down on us,” he said. “There were some things that I personally need to work on, there are things that I want to correct so I can be better.”
With the experience of a tough start and strong finish under their belt early in the season, the USF defense has prepared itself for the remainder of the 2012 season.