Bulls must leave Tide behind

Coming off a tough loss against Alabama, one of the most storied programs in college football, the USF football team now must shift its attention to a team that opened up against Bethel College.

After competing with a team that resides in the Southeastern Conference, preparing for Saturday’s home opener at Raymond James Stadium against Nicholls State, a team that competes in the Southland Conference in Division 1-AA, could prove to be a difficult challenge for the Bulls (0-1).

“The mind set needs to be the same, but I don’t know if a lot of the guys are going to (approach) it the same,” senior wide receiver Huey Whittaker said. “We know they’re not an Alabama-type team, but they are picked to win a national championship in 1-AA, I believe. So it should ring in the ears of a lot of guys that they are a pretty good team.

“Coach (Jim Leavitt) has instilled it in our heads, and let us know that they can come out (and) beat the big teams. We have to take that in hindsight, and notice that, because they can come out and whoop us.”

What Nicholls State did last week in its season opener may be the cause for Leavitt’s concern. The Colonels (1-0) rushed for 444 yards and eight touchdowns in a 70-0 victory against Bethel College, using a triple-option offense that is atypical to what USF normally sees on defense.

The triple option is an I-formation set where the quarterback has the option to hand off to the fullback, take it himself, or pitch it to the halfback.

“They run the triple-option, which you have got to have great discipline on defense,” Leavitt said. “They just beat a team 70-0, and I don’t care who you play. I think our guys understand that if we don’t play much better than we did last week, it could be a long night.”

What should help the Bulls is the success they have experienced at home, where the team currently holds a 19-game winning streak, the third longest streak in the nation. Also, USF hasn’t lost a home opener in school history, while posting a 26-12 all-time record against Division 1-AA teams, including 11 consecutive wins.

The last team to defeat the Bulls at home was Hofstra, a 1-AA opponent, which makes the players understand all those current streaks could come to an abrupt end.

“It’s always in our heads, and anybody that comes in is always kind of threatening that,” Whittaker said. “But we want to come out and get this win. I think we’ll be all right when it comes to game time.”

One person who isn’t getting caught up in all the numbers is junior quarterback Ronnie Banks, who enters his first home start still seeking his first collegiate victory.

Banks had a good showing last week, completing more than half of his passes for 199 yards and a touchdown, but he isn’t letting last week’s performance affect his mindset entering his second start.

“It’s the same feeling I have this week that I had last week (going into) Alabama,” Banks said. “We’ve just got to go take care of our business and hopefully, we can get a victory.

“South Florida has to concentrate on South Florida. We have to take care of our business.”