Stakes raised as Bulls prepare to dive into conference slate

Sophomore running back Demetris Murray said with the start of Big East play comes a new sense of urgency..

And after what coach Skip Holtz described as USF’s most complete performance of the season against Florida Atlantic, the Bulls turn their focus to Syracuse, whom they host Saturday at noon as they begin the quest for their first Big East title.

“It’s very exciting,” said Murray, who was held out of USF’s 31-3 win against FAU on Saturday with a sore ankle but practiced Sunday. “When you think back to high school and things like that, one of the first playoff games you feel like you’re on top of the world. That’s kind of like it is right now.”

While the Bulls say they had a normal Sunday with the usual routine of correcting mistakes from the previous game and watching film, there was also a sense of anxiety, Holtz said.

Following the game, Holtz said he could see a different team in the locker room, knowing it had produced one of its most complete games of the season before the conference opener.

“It just creates a whole other excitement level and energy level with this football team,” he said of starting conference play.

The Big East is just 2-10 against BCS foes and currently have no teams ranked in the USA Today/coaches’ or AP polls after starting the season with two – Pittsburgh and West Virginia)

So, what exactly are the Bulls’ chances in a conference that has struggled against non-conference opponents so far this season?

Holtz said he’s interested to observe how the league will evolve over the course of the season.

“I’m anxious to kind of see where this league is,” Holtz said. “I haven’t lined up and played against Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Cincinnati and a lot of these teams. “I’m excited to not only see where we match up, but kind of how the whole league plays out once we’ve had the opportunity to play everybody once.”

On Saturday, the Bulls patched up some holes from earlier in the season, such as their turnover margin, lack of sacks and passing efficiency.

“It was definitely what we were looking for, clicking on all cylinders,” said redshirt sophomore quarterback B.J. Daniels.

The Bulls hope their drubbing of FAU was a preview of what’s to come in the Big East.

“It wasn’t perfect by any means … but I think it’s a spring board from where we were a week ago,” offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said of the team’s latest win building momentum for Syracuse, “with really being solely one dimensional to hopefully taking a good stride.”