The South Florida Bulls have ranked in the top six in the nation for penalties every year except one since the program began 11 years ago. The facts don’t lie: USF plays sloppy football.
This year it’s been the same story.
“It’s part of coaching, but it’s very frustrating to see us get so many penalties,” defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said. “An aggressive penalty we don’t mind. We don’t like to jump offsides, though. But if we really hit the quarterback hard, then what can you say? I mean, it’s just part of the game.”
Burnham said it’s the non-aggressive penalties that really affect the outcome of the season, and they haven’t affected the Bulls positively.
“When you jump offside, get holding calls, when your defensive backs get called for holding — the only thing you can say is that it’s foolish,” he said. “Those are foolish penalties. You can’t win with foolish penalties.”
It hasn’t just been penalties that have hurt the Bulls this season, Burnham said. USF has struggled with communication in their secondary, which has resulted in opponents averaging more than 12 yards per completion.
“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” he said. “Sometimes we have guys that are aligned wrong. Sometimes we have our safeties not helping over the top. Sometimes it’s poor judgment by our cornerbacks on deep balls. We are just struggling in that area.”
Offensive coordinator Greg Gregory said Thursday’s loss to Cincinnati was most frustrating because of the number of dropped balls. The most crucial one came late in the game when tight end Cedric Hill had a ball bounce right off his chest and into the arms of a defender for an interception.
“Offensively it’s not about committing so many penalties, but it’s about what time they come in during the game,” Gregory said. “No one knows what the answer is on dropped passes. We work them and work them and work them, but we just didn’t make any plays.”
Gregory said he expects the team to make good use of the bye week. After USF’s first loss to Pittsburgh, the Bulls defeated Syracuse handily in their next game.
“You know, after our first loss to Pittsburgh we went out and took advantage of the bye week. We need to go out there this week and take advantage of it in the same sense,” he said.
Coach Jim Leavitt said the team’s recent mistakes are a huge disappointment.
“We need to do better than that,” he said. “The three turnovers we had, I mean, that’s just something you can’t do. We have a lot of things to work on and we just aren’t there yet as a football team. We are competing in the Big East, but we just aren’t where we want to be.”