It was well documented even weeks before Saturday’s game that with USF’s instability at wide receiver, the team would turn to the running game.
But after looking at the disparity between running and passing plays – 44 rushes compared 11 passes – it’s apparent to the offensive staff that things must change.
“We certainly want to be more balanced than we were (Saturday),” said offensive coordinator Todd Fitch. “We were going to be a run team, obviously, with the injuries we’ve had (at wide receiver). It’s something that’s not where we want it. We know that. You have good rushing totals, which we were encouraged about, but we’ve got to become more balanced to be the team we need to be to win the conference.”
Quarterback B.J. Daniels’ 57 yards passing was the fewest single-game total in program history. Coach Skip Holtz said the Bulls, who rank seventh in the Big East with 216 passing yards per game, are handcuffed with all the injuries.
Senior Dontavia Bogan is still a question mark, while senior A.J. Love and sophomore Sterling Griffin are still rehabbing major injuries. Without their top receivers heading into the season, the Bulls’ offensive game plan had to adapt to accommodate the youth at the position.
For perspective, consider that freshman wide receiver Stephen Bravo-Brown, a walk-on, made his first career start Saturday.
“I love Bravo-Brown. He’s doing a great job. I love (sophomore receiver) T.J. Knowles. He’s doing a great job. I love (sophomore receiver) Evan Landi. He’s doing a great job. None of them were here last fall,” Holtz said. “It’s really like playing a whole bunch of true freshmen. It’s a concern.”
But if there is any reason for optimism, it’s that the Bulls could very well have Bogan and Griffin in the lineup for the Big East conference opener against Syracuse in two weeks. Bogan, who injured his ankle against Florida, practiced Sunday.
“I was worried about the wide receivers when we lost two, and then when you take Bogan out of it, then it really makes things lopsided,” Holtz said.
“This goes back to a conversation we had in spring practice. We still have a long ways to go there,” Holtz said. “We’re going to have to turn and look hard at what we’re going to have to do as an offensive football team.”
Linebackers making plays
The top four tacklers for USF on Saturday were linebackers, which isn’t a bad thing, said defensive coordinator Mark Snyder.
“We have some depth at linebacker,” Snyder said. “I feel comfortable letting any of those guys in. The key is to keep them fresh. We’re lucky we have the ability to do that.”
Sophomore middle linebacker Sam Barrington led the team with six, while redshirt sophomore middle linebacker Mike Lanaris totaled five. Senior outside linebacker Jacquian Williams and redshirt freshman Dede Lattimore also had five.
“That’s nice work,” Snyder said.
Holtz praised redshirt sophomore punter Justin Brockhaus-Kann, who punted twice for 104 yards Saturday, upping his average to 48.1 yards per punt this season, ranking third in the country.
“When we came out here in spring practice, we didn’t know if we had a punter,” Holtz said. “He came out and wasn’t very consistent, but when he got ahold of it, he punted it like not many people can turn and punt it. He had a tremendous summer. I think he’s one of those guys that have embraced the starting role. He’s had a great first three games. Let’s hope he can stay with it.”
After punt returns of 27 and 67 yards on Saturday, USF true freshman Terrence Mitchell was named the Big East Special Teams Player of the Week.
Running back Demetris Murray, who rushed for a career-high 115 yards against WKU, was named to the Big East Honor Roll.
Homecoming game set for noon
Kickoff for USF’s homecoming game against Syracuse on Oct. 9 has been set for noon. The game, which marks the Big East opener for both teams, will air on WFTS-TV (ABC 28) in Tampa.
The Bulls, who won a 34-20 meeting in Syracuse last season, are 5-0 all-time against the Orange.