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USF looks for consistency on offensive line

Published: Monday, September 17, 2012

Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 22:09



Senior running back Demetris Murray said the team’s inablity to establish the run in a loss to Rutgers was self-inflicted, and something that will be fixed before they return to the field.

Three weeks into the season, it seems as if the only reliability from the USF football team’s offense has been the absence of a traditional running game.

While senior running back Demetris Murray leads the team with 38 carries, senior quarterback B.J. Daniels carried the brunt of the team’s running game in its two games in BCS competition, against Nevada and Rutgers.

In those two games, Daniels led the team in carries with 26 and rushing yards with 121. Coach Skip Holtz said he has seen an uncharacteristic performance from his offensive line.

“We only had about 20 called runs (Thursday night) because we really weren’t able to do anything,” Holtz said. “It wouldn’t bother me as much if it was all physical, but there were a lot of mental breakdowns, uncharacteristic from what we had been doing all week. In practice you block in a certain front, and then you go out there in the game and it’s like everything was forgotten.”

Murray, who leads a rushing attack that ranks 91st in the nation at 129.7 yards per game, said a few simple changes can prevent the Bulls from becoming one-sided on offense.

“After watching film from our last game, we really left a lot of things on the field,” Murray said. “When you go around and people say the running game isn’t working, or it’s not doing anything, that’s not true. We’re just beating ourselves, we’re not dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. Once we start doing that we’ll be a little better.”

Senior offensive tackle Mark Popek, a point of stability on an offensive line that has seen multiple starters at both tackle positions, said the youth and lack of experience — with three underclassmen starters — may have contributed to the rough start.

“I think with a team like Rutgers it takes experience,” he said. “And, I think for the younger guys, there’s a lot of mental breakdowns and mistakes that hurt us. We just weren’t focused enough to do well, and that was apparent.”

While Daniels was not sacked in the loss to Rutgers, he was continuously under pressure, running the ball 15 times and frequently being forced to throw from out of the pocket. Holtz said the lack of protection contributed to Daniels’ three-interception night.

“When the pocket is there, I think B.J. usually did a good job of staying in it, but the pocket just wasn’t there,” he said. “We’re being a little unfair to him, asking him to play quarterback when there’s so much pressure
on him with just a four man rush, they don’t even have to bring a blitz.”

With the characteristically tough and physical defenses of the Big East awaiting the Bulls after two non-conference games, Murray said the offensive line is aware that it needs to establish consistency in both run and pass blocking.

“After the loss, in practice, they came out focused, with a chip on their shoulders,” he said. “They were aggressive and hitting hard...we can’t keep telling them ‘come on, let’s do this, let’s go’ — they know what they need to do, they’re blue collar guys, they work and that’s what they’re going to do.”

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