Leavitt: There’s a weakness up front

USF coach Jim Leavitt’s “worst nightmare” came true Saturday: USF got manhandled in the trenches.

“They were big. They were strong. They were fast,” he said after USF was defeated 31-10 by Miami. “Our defense didn’t play good enough at the line of scrimmage. Our defense got whooped. We’ve got to do some things offensively as well. They beat us on both sides.”

The Hurricanes outmuscled the Bulls, gaining 240 rushing yards while limiting the Bulls to 3.7 yards per carry, which was partially enhanced because of a pair of long runs of more than 25 yards.

Miami kept USF off-balance with three running backs. Junior Damien Berry rushed for 114 yards on 12 carries, junior Graig Cooper had 83 on 16 carries and senior Javarris James had 37 yards and two touchdowns.

And when the ‘Canes could run, they utilized the play action throughout the night, including in the third quarter when sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris beat USF deep for a 33-yard touchdown to tight end Dedrick Epps to give Miami a 28-10 lead.

USF defensive coordinator Joe Tresey said Miami’s ground assault set up the play action.

“They were pretty balanced (with the run) but they really were more of a pass team in the last four or five games,” Tresey said. “Obviously, they felt they could come out and establish the run.”

“If you can’t stop the run, you’ve got some issues. We just couldn’t stop the run.”

On offense, other than the two big runs, the Bulls could not get a push from their offensive line, setting up third-and-long throughout the night.

“First down execution just killed us,” said offensive coordinator Mike Canales. “It wasn’t so much scheme-wise. They just beat us. They beat us up front. We tried to play-action and some different things to counter play it.”

That effort was to no avail.

“They were better than us (Saturday),” Canales said. “We have to continue to work through situations. We have a couple of guys down with injuries, but there’s no excuse for it. The next guy has to step up and continue to play hard. We have to go with what we got. We’re not going to make excuses. We got our butt handled.”

Leavitt said a glaring weakness was exposed Saturday.

“We’ve got to get better up front,” he said. “One of our weaknesses is getting stout and big physical people who can play inside. We’re just not that big and physical inside.”