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USF Bulls in Connecticut a ‘business trip’

Running back Ben Williams rushed for 108 yards and one of four rushing touchdowns to lead the Bulls to a 38-16 victory over Connecticut last season. The Huskies rank sixth nationally in total defense this season. ORACLE FILE PHOTO

College football fans from across the country became familiar with the intimidating demeanor of coach Jim Leavitt at Rutgers.

After a series of questionable calls wiped two touchdowns off the scoreboard during the Oct. 18 game against Rutgers, ESPN’s camera crew focused on the Bill Cower-like facial expressions he made.

The coach drew criticism for his behavior after quarterback Matt Grothe’s first-down run was called back because of a holding penalty.

“(I was) probably calm with what I was feeling inside,” Leavitt said. “I’m a little bit surprised I was able to handle myself as well as I did … I’m going to react, usually not as much, but it built though three calls.”

USF (6-1, 1-1) looks to remove the scowl and put a smile on its coach’s face Saturday, traveling to Connecticut.

In each of the Bulls’ six victories this season, they have scored first. Last week, the Scarlet Knights took the early lead after converting a fake punt on fourth down to set up a field goal.

After a fake field goal gave Rutgers the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter, USF focused on special-teams play in practice this week.

“It was real frustrating knowing that the game came down to special teams,”cornerback Mike Jenkins said. “But we just have to let it go and move on. I know (D.J. Hernandez) moved from quarterback to wide receiver, so I’m sure they’ll have a lot of trick plays for us.”

Thursday, instead of breaking the huddle with the usual “teamwork,” the Bulls left the practice field saying “business trip.”

Saturday may be the best chance for USF to make up lost ground, as the Huskies are the only opponent remaining ranked in the second week of BCS standings.

The contest allows the Bulls to get back to business – especially coming off their first loss of the season.

“I couldn’t sit there and watch (Connecticut defeat Louisville on ESPN) – I didn’t want to watch any football after the loss,” Jenkins said. “This game just lets us get our focus back and keep moving towards our goal of winning the Big East championship.”

Even though the Huskies (6-1, 2-0) are unbeaten in conference play and share the top overall record in the conference, they have yet to be ranked in the coaches or AP polls.

All of the Huskies victories have come against teams with sub-.500 records. Its most impressive win came last week against Louisville, where the Huskies defense shut down one of the more potent offenses in the NCAA.

Connecticut hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 17 points this season and it ranks third in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 12.7 points per game.

“I know their defense is playing really well,” cornerback Trae Williams said. “We have to win this game to stay in the Big East race … we know we have our work cut out for us.”