It may seem that USF hasn’t been in this type of scenario in awhile, but one only needs to look back to Week 2 to strike up some similarities.
In that week, the Bulls (3-2, 2-1 Conference USA) were heading into a matchup against Division I-AA Nicholls State and coming off a very tough loss at Alabama.
It’s eerily the same this week, as USF will face Division I-AA Charleston Southern on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium following the team’s toughest loss this season, a 13-10 setback Friday against TCU.
The only difference between the two is that Friday’s loss against the Horned Frogs snapped the Bulls’ 21-game home winning streak, which at the time was the nation’s second longest. However, the Bulls can continue a few other streaks Saturday against the Buccaneers (1-5) while having the chance to start a new home winning streak.
“The sign of a good team is you’ve got to get through things,” USF coach Jim Leavitt said. “You put it behind you. You’ve got to go forward. We’ve just got to step it up and I believe we will; we always have.”
The Bulls have been extremely tough following a loss, posting an all-time record of 18-5. USF has lost consecutive games just four times in the program’s history, including once since 1998. USF also has a 27-12 record against Division I-AA opponents with 12 consecutive wins.
And what should help is the success the Bulls have had against CSU. USF is 3-0 against CSU, outscoring the Buccaneers 104-12 in those games and 56-6 last season. The Bulls have surrendered just one touchdown in those three games, which came on a kickoff return.
“(It’s) a team we beat pretty good last year,” Leavitt said. “But we’re fortunate to be playing them.”
The game against CSU marks the second time the Bulls were forced to add a game on short notice after Eastern Michigan and Baylor dropped USF from the schedule. CSU agreed to shift some things around in order to make a return trip to Tampa, thus giving the Bulls their desired six home games this season.
But USF does enter this game with some questions, specifically on offense. Junior quarterback Ronnie Banks struggled last Friday against TCU, passing for just 68 yards while getting sacked a school-record nine times.
However, Leavitt said Banks would continue to start for the Bulls, even though Brian Fisher replaced him late in the game.
“We struggled offensively last game, not only at the quarterback position,” Leavitt said. “Ronnie’s a good quarterback. All you have to do is go back (to the Louisville game). We had a tough go around because of the (TCU) defense, and I don’t think you throw it all in because of that. I know I’m not going to.”
Leavitt wasn’t the only one to rally around his quarterback and proclaim he still had faith in his starter. The entire team feels the same way and believes that Banks will bounce back from his troubles against CSU.
“He’s still the No. 1 guy, he just had a rough game,” senior linebacker Maurice Jones said. “I’ve had a bad game and I’ve bounced back. You can’t relish on one game; you have to move on. The team is still behind him, and he’s going to be OK.
“That might be the only time you see (Banks and the offense) like that this year, when they might have a lapse like that.”
Despite the struggles on the offense, Leavitt doesn’t see that as the biggest test for his team this week. Rather, he’s wondering how is team is going to respond after a tough loss and facing another Division I-AA opponent.
“What you’re more concerned about, no matter who you’re playing, is the leaders stepping up and getting this thing going,” Leavitt said. “I’m more concerned about how we’re going to play.
“Are we going to come out and play and try to improve on what we’ve been, or not? It’s all on us; it’s all on South Florida and not anyone else.”