USF’s opening day blowout win against Stony Brook on Saturday night provided a strong, emotional start to the Skip Holtz era.
However, that game – played in front of an announced crowd of 40.201 fans at Raymond James Stadium – is a distant memory in the Bulls’ minds as they start preparation for their trip to Gainesville on Saturday to face No. 4 Florida.
“That’s the way you have to go about your business,” senior cornerback Mistral Raymond said after Sunday’s practice, the first one of “Florida Week.” “That game’s over and done with. Nothing we did in that game could contribute or hurt us or affect us in this upcoming game.”
Maybe not, but the Bulls now know a focal point of this week’s practice.
Despite a 59-14 win, the Bulls struggled on defense early and had numerous special teams blunders, including two muffed punt returns and a bad snap on another that led to a turnover on downs and eventually a Stony Brook touchdown.
“It was on the ground more than it is in a soccer match,” Holtz said. “The disappointing thing, and the thing we’re going to have to turn and make big improvements on, is in the special teams. They say the most progress you make is from game one to game two. That’s where we’re going to have to make some big strides.”
As for the offense, quarterback B.J. Daniels was sharp, completing 15 of 22 passes, and the defense, aside from giving up a big-play passing touchdown in the second quarter, was solid.
The receiving core, a big question mark heading into the season, played well, especially sophomore Evan Landi, who caught four passes for 106 yards on Saturday.
“(Saturday) definitely was a confidence builder,” Daniels said. “You know, coming in with a new offense, new team, new coaches – things like that. Coming out like we did (Saturday) was big.”
There’s no telling how good those areas will perform in The Swamp, however, but Holtz said the key to this week is “not to look at the big picture, not to be result-oriented but be task-oriented this week.”
“The best way to run a marathon is one step at a time. That’s how we have to approach this week,” Holtz said. “I know they’ll be excited. I know there’ll be a lot of energy this week.”
If the Bulls somehow pull off the upset of Florida, there’s a good chance they’ll be sitting at 5-0 heading into a showdown with West Virginia in Morgantown on Oct. 14. After the Gators, the Bulls have three straight home games against Western Kentucky, FAU and Syracuse.
The Bulls aren’t looking that far into the future, but still, Daniels said Saturday’s game could be a good omen.
“The only team that can beat us is us in our minds,” he said. “That’s our mindset every game. Our main focus is on what we can control and just go out there and go play.”