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Bulls seek to improve after NIU game

Strong practices, but room for improvement, summed up the thoughts of USF football coach Jim Leavitt at Tuesday?s press luncheon in the Green and Gold Room of the Sun Dome.

?As we went and worked through two-a-days, one thing that was very hard and very difficult getting ready for Northern Illinois was, where do you stop your two-a-day practices?? said Leavitt. ?We had to start and stop one-a-day practices. So we backed off a little bit earlier than I would have up to that first game.?

The coach discussed problems the team had in the 20-17 loss to NIU. Going into Saturday?s game against Pittsburgh, Leavitt expressed concerns about the team?s inability to stop NIU in the fourth quarter. Leavitt said he was encouraged by the team?s hard work against NIU and that was the attitude he had going into this week?s preparation.

?We didn?t finish the fourth quarter real well,? Leavitt said. ?You?ve got to find a reason why we didn?t finish as well as I wanted to.?

The concerns about players being unprepared for the fourth quarter could explain why Leavitt included thirty minutes of conditioning work at the end of Monday?s practice.

Junior defensive end Emerson Morris was among the players who joined Leavitt at the luncheon. Morris said he thought the team performed strongly in the first half of the NIU game, but lost focus as the game went on.

?We gave up a lot of yards, but last game we were a much better team,? Morris said. ?It didn?t really hit us until after the first quarter. We realized that we could really put it on these guys. But I think we got kind of complacent. But after that third quarter we really thought we had them. After a while, as a team, we let down our guards. We were a much better team than them.?

Bad weather disrupts practice

Tuesday afternoon?s practice was interrupted by heavy rains and lightning, forcing the Bulls to complete practice under the Soccer Stadium. The team spent 90 minutes under cover working on formations.

?I thought about moving the practice to tonight,? said head coach Jim Leavitt. ?It?s just one of those things you have to make a decision on before the storm arrives. We had hoped to get it all in (on practice fields), but that?s life sometimes.?

Jarrett Guthrie covers football and can be reached at