Florida A&M, from the Football Championship Subdivision’s Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, might not be the toughest opponent the Bulls will face this season. However, there are some aspects behind this match-up that will be important for the Bulls to focus on.
According to coach Skip Holtz, it starts with increasing the depth behind the starters and making sure players are developed enough to carry the team if the need arises.
In last week’s 37-7 win against Ball State, a large USF (2-0) lead allowed Holtz and his coaching staff to give the backups significant playing time in the second half. A number of USF backup players saw playing time, especially in the third quarter.
“We want to get the (backups) in a meaningful time in the game, and that early in the third quarter, there’s still a lot of things that can happen,” Holtz said. “But I felt it was great to get them in and see where some of them are and see some of the improvements we need to make. Hopefully, as they talk about the greatest improvements from game one to game two, we’re going to see that, with a lot of the guys that had the opportunity to play last week, get some of the nervous jitters out.”
Holtz said he wants players like backup sophomore quarterback Bobby Eveld to get more playing time. Prior to the game against Ball State, Eveld hadn’t played since last season’s game against Connecticut. Last week, Eveld came into the game for B.J. Daniels in the third quarter. He was 3-for-11 and had an interception, but Holtz said he thinks, if he sees more playing time, Eveld’s play could begin to improve.
“Even a guy like Bobby Eveld, he goes, ‘Coach, I gotta be honest, I was nervous. I hadn’t been on the field since Connecticut last year, so I was nervous,’ and it gets some of those jitters out and hopefully he’ll go in and be a little bit more poised when he gets the opportunity whether it be this week, next week or at some other point down the road,” Holtz said.
Eveld said he is looking forward to possibly seeing more snaps against Florida A&M (1-1) and getting more playing time, which will calm his nerves.
“I think my pocket presence was a little bit jittery, I guess,” he said. “I need to calm down a little bit and, maybe, not sift up as much, but also missing high. So I need to get my arm up, maybe, a little bit or bring the ball down at least.”
Bulls’ defensive coordinator Todd Fitch also said he thinks it’s crucial for the Bulls to develop the players behind the starters because, although they might not get much playing time throughout the season, they have to be ready once they are called on to step into a game. As long as the Bulls are having success in the game, Fitch said the backups can come in, get some playing time and get the chance to improve.
“In the second half, we’re having success against Ball State, then sure we want to give everybody reps because those guys will hopefully learn last week to this week what it takes to play at the college level,” he said.
For the Bulls to have the chance to allow backups to play, an early lead will be crucial. USF’s first two Big East opponents, Pittsburgh and West Virginia, both struggled against FCS opponents at home last week, with Pittsburgh winning 35-29 against Maine, while WVU trailed Norfolk State 12-10 at halftime.
Kickoff at Raymond James Stadium is set for 7 p.m. The Bulls are 1-0 all-time against Florida A&M with a 37-3 win at home in 2005 being the only prior meeting.