After an unexpected week off, the USF football team takes to the road Saturday for the third straight time, traveling to Tennessee to take on the Memphis Tigers.
The Bulls home opener was postponed last week due to the national tragedy. During the break, the Bulls practiced only twice in seven days. Coach Jim Leavitt said last week was hard on the team. He said he?s not sure if the team?s focus will be back for this weekend?s game.
?That is a concern ? to get the guys back into a pace and a rhythm,? Leavitt said. ?I think we all did a pretty good job under the circumstances.?
Following Monday?s practice, the first in four days, Leavitt said his team was not as sharp as they had been after their last game two weeks ago.
?You can tell we?ve been off a few days, and you can tell we weren?t in sync,? he said. ?But I thought our players did a pretty good job of diving back into it.?
The Bulls? offense, which rolled up 434 yards and five touchdowns against Pittsburgh, will have a tough task against the highly-touted Memphis defense. Leavitt said he is concerned that the Bulls? run game will be unable to move the ball against the Memphis front four, who held their last opponent, Tennessee-Chattanooga, to just 30 yards on the ground in a victory.
?They had the No. 1 rushing defense in America last year and they don?t look like they?ve dropped off at all,? he said. ?They make plays.?
Among Memphis? defensive linemen is Albert Means, who is 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs in at 340 pounds. Means, who started four games for Alabama last season, has been the center of an off-season controversy after he transferred to Memphis in January. Lynn Lang, Means? former high school coach, allegedly sold his star to Alabama boosters for $200,000. First-year Memphis coach Tommy West said in an Associated Press repor,t he is happy to have Means on his team.
?This is obviously a great day for the Means family and for our football team,? West told the AP. ?I am really excited for him.?
The Memphis defense allowed just 72.7 yards per game in rushing last year. Leavitt said the Bulls must try to get their running game going.
?If you sit there and throw the ball all the time, that doesn?t give you any balance,? he said. ?That gives you a problem too because they just lay their ears back and go after you.?
On the other side of the ball, the Memphis spread offense will give the Bulls? defense a tough time as they try to repeat their impressive showing against Pittsburgh Sept. 8. Of concern for the Bulls is the improvement of Memphis quarterback Travis Anglin ? a threat both on the ground and through the air. Against Tennessee-Chattanooga, he threw for 145 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 78 yards. Another threat is running back Sugar Sanders, who ran for 646 yards last season.
?Their offensive line is very big,? Leavitt said. ?It looks like they?ve settled in on a quarterback that?s very athletic and runs extremely well.?
Memphis is the Bulls? first Conference USA opponent this season. The Bulls will join Conference USA in 2003. Leavitt said he looks forward to playing future conference opponents like Memphis.
?It adds a little to the game. I think it makes it more exciting,? he said. ?What?s important is that this is the direction we?re going.?
Leavitt said with the added element of playing a future conference opponent and with the long layoff, his team is ready to get back on the field.
?We?re anxious; I am, I want to play,? he said. ?It should be a heck of a football game.?
Rob Brannon covers football and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org