Not only would a USF victory over Rutgers on Wednesday night be important from a morale standpoint – the Bulls have dropped consecutive games to the Scarlet Knights by a combined score of 80-16 – but also it would set a milestone as the 100th win in program history.
“It’d be a great mark to be able to reach,” said coach Skip Holtz, only the second football coach in school history. “You look at it, coach (Jim) Leavitt has done a great job with this program. When you’re introduced as the second head coach in school history, you start to take notice. When the oldest alumnus that played football here is 32 years old, those are the things you keep going, ‘Wow, we are young.'”
In 13 years as head coach, Leavitt went 95-57, taking the Bulls to five straight bowl games (and three bowl victories) before being fired after the 2009 season.
A win would put the Bulls (4-3) in position for a sixth straight bowl appearance. USF, which beat Cincinnati 38-30 Friday Oct. 22, now needs just two more wins to become bowl eligible. After Rutgers, the Bulls have games against Louisville, Pittsburgh, Miami (Fla.) and Connecticut.
And while Holtz tries to keep his team focused on the Big East race, there’s more at stake on Wednesday.
“We’re a very young program. At East Carolina and Connecticut, we celebrated the 100th year anniversary. Here we’re looking to celebrate the 100th win,” Holtz said. “It’s a real testament to coach Leavitt and so many of the players that have been through here and to this community, to watch this program grow at the pace that it’s grown. It just shows the unlimited potential of this program and what it could become.”
Preparing for “wild” package
Rutgers will pose a challenge USF hasn’t often faced.The Scarlet Knights’ offense specializes in running “wildcat” plays with soph more Mohamed Sanu, a 6-foot-2, 218-pound wide receiver who leads the team in rushing and receiving yards.
The wildcat formation, which generally involves a receiver or running back in the backfield to take a direct snap and either keep the ball or hand it off on a zone-read, is used to outnumber the defense with the quarterback being substituted for an extra blocker.
Holtz said to prepare, the Bulls faced freshman quarterback Jamius Gunsby, who has a similar skill set to Sanu, in practice.
“They’ve gotten a great look from Jamius,” Holtz said. “It is something that’s difficult to stop. It’s almost like they have 12 (players). It’s like they have four receivers and two backs in the backfield, but you only have 11 to defend it with.”
Special teams challenge
Another area Holtz said he’s concerned with is Rutgers’ punt block unit, which has a Big East-leading five blocks through seven games this year.
“That’s probably as worried as I’ll be,” he said. “When you have to send the punt team out on the field, most people will go, ‘OK, we have to punt, the defense is up.’ You better make sure you punt the ball first. They create problems.”