Defense is key to USFs chances Saturday

Although the Bulls face a Ball State team that went 4-8 last season, Skip Holtz and his team are not taking the Cardinals lightly. Last week, Ball State beat Indiana in a game that no one expected the Cardinals to win.

For the Bulls to succeed Saturday, containing the Cardinals’ high-octane offense will be key. Last week, the Cardinals had more than 36 minutes of possession time compared to Indiana’s 23, along with 385 yards of total offense – 210 of which came on the ground against a Big 10 defense.

“When I look at them as an offense, and you put on the film, Ball State is a good football team,” Holtz said at his Tuesday press conference.

The Cardinals will likely keep USF’s defense busy Saturday, mainly because of its no-huddle offense, but Holtz said they are prepared to face that type of offense and have been since the team’s time in Vero Beach.

“They are running a no-huddle offense, kind of a quick pace, which is one of the reasons we did what we did in Vero to kind of get our defense ready for it,” he said.

“We do a lot of ones on ones and ones vs twos, so our defense has got a lot of fast work against each other. I think the thing that prepares us for this game is a little bit of how much fast ball work we’ve got, meaning good on good, where we’ve got not just scout team work where they’ve got an opportunity to turn and run our defenses and what were doing against an offense very similar to what we are about to face this weekend.”

Bulls’ junior defensive tackle Cory Grissom said he thinks the time spent in Vero Beach prepared him and the rest of the team for what they face Saturday.

“With what we have been doing in the past with a NASCAR offense like that, I think we will do pretty good,” he said. “In the heat and going full pads (in Vero Beach) prepared us and built up my stamina for no-huddle offenses like Ball State’s.”

Ball State is a veteran-laden team, returning nine players on offense, including all members of the offensive line. Grissom said his team is focused and ready for the Cardinals’ sizable linemen.

“In the video, they look a little bigger than Notre Dame’s (offensive line), and coach keeps reiterating the no-huddle, so I think we are prepared,” he said.

Another concern for USF’s defense will be Ball State’s sophomore quarterback Keith Wenning, who was 23-for-29 against Indiana for 173 yards. He also avoided turning the ball over to the Hoosiers.

“When you look at their offense, they have a very good quarterback,” Holtz said. “He is very accurate. He’s a sophomore. I’d probably equate him a lot to a guy like a Bobby Eveld who went in there as a freshman. (Wenning) was one of their freshman players of the year. He is very accurate, he is very intelligent, he is very smart.”

USF redshirt sophomore defensive end Ryne Giddins said no one on the team is looking past Ball State and they are prepared for whatever the Cardinals throw at them.

“I think we are very prepared,” he said. “We are expecting really anything. They are a great team from what I have watched on film. We aren’t taking anybody for granted. This game is just as important as the last game we got done playing.”

“I think Ball State is going to come out and try to win this game, just like we are going to try and win this game. There is nothing different regarding our approach to this game besides staying more focused and tightening up on the little things on our end.”

Kickoff at Raymond James Stadium is set for 7 p.m. Saturday. Student tickets are available for free at the ticket zone on