Bulls return home for 6

In the Bulls’ fifth game they will look to forget about last week’s 52-21 loss to Utah and concentrate on stopping the momentum-driven Connecticut Huskies, as the Bulls begin a six-game home stand.

“I like playing at home more than I do playing on the road,” USF coach Jim Leavitt said. “We’ve had success this year on the road obviously at Pittsburgh, and we played pretty good against Memphis. Certainly a home crowd and a home stadium make more people want to play at home.”

UConn is coming to Raymond James Stadium with an even record with South Florida at 2-3. However, unlike the Bulls, the Huskies have two consecutive wins, against Rutgers and Eastern Michigan, coming into Saturday’s 7 p.m. game. This will be the second meeting between these two teams after last year’s 21-13 USF victory Oct. 28.

An improvement during the last two weeks (a win against North Texas and a loss against Utah) has been red-zone production. In both games the production from inside the Bulls opponent’s 20-yard line has been 3-4 each week. This is an improvement from the loss to Memphis when it was 1-5. However, the Bulls will need to work on improving third down conversions where they have gone 24-of-87 this season. Some of these missed opportunities came in the form of three-and-out series against Utah, where the Bulls punted from deep in their territory giving their opponents excellent field position. Another area needing some attention before Saturday’s game is the field goal unit. Improving on the 2-of-6 field goal accuracy is crucial to USF’s scoring drives. South Florida’s kickers need to be in top form this weekend as the Bulls are projected line favorites by 18 points.

“It might sound crazy to a lot of people, but it is 38-0 (against Utah) in the third quarter,” Leavitt said. “And it’s fourth-and-two and the reason I went for a field goal is because I was thinking five touchdowns and a field goal and we’d tie it up. I wanted to get points in that situation because we hadn’t had anything happen positive.”

Leavitt’s want to change the momentum in the Utah game was stopped by a missed field goal; it wasn’t until a few minutes more into the quarter that the Bulls would score their first touchdown.Something South Florida will look for Saturday is to focus on the young UConn defense which, like the Bulls’ defense, has suffered key injuries. The Huskies lost a pair of starters in Hakeem Kashama and Uyi Osunde for the season.

“Defensively, I know they’ve had some injuries, but they are very active in the secondary,” Leavitt said.

With injuries to Vince Brewer (ankle) and Derek Rackard (shoulder), the current choice as starting running back this week will continue to be Clenton Crossley.

“I’d say Clenton Crossley right now is (the starter),” Leavitt said. “He seems to probably be doing the best.”

One vague spot regarding USF’s offense continues to circle around the health of junior wide receiver DeAndrew Rubin, who has been slowed this season by a turf toe injury suffered during the Sept. 8 win against Pittsburgh.

“We probably should have shut him down for a week,” Leavitt said. “We X-rayed him right before the Memphis game, and we didn’t find a fracture. So we tried it a little bit, but then really didn’t play him. I told him last week if he wasn’t feeling 100 percent, I didn’t want to play him, but he told me on Thursday that it was feeling good and he felt like he could really be at 100 percent. I’ve got to go by what he told me.

“He practiced last night but didn’t go full speed. It is a valid point to be made about shutting him down.”

And finally, the defense will need to do a better job stopping the opponent’s offense. Last week, with the exception of Kawika Mitchell’s 12 tackles, the defense didn’t stop the Utes from controlling the field. UConn is a team that mixes two quarterbacks: Keron Henry is a scrambler who has 104 yards rushing on the year and two rushing touchdowns; the other, Dan Orlovsky, is a passer who has 280 yards passing in the last two wins for UConn. This balanced quarterback mix is coupled with two running backs, Chris Bellamy and Taber Small. The USF defense will need to contain the rush and force the passing game – both quarterbacks have combined for eight interceptions this season.

“They have two quarterbacks who have done real well,” Leavitt said. “One runs and throws well and the other is one of the best passers out of high school.”

  • Jarrett Guthrie covers football and can be reached at oracleguthrie@yahoo.com