In USF’s football team’s first practice since last week’s 44-17 loss to Pittsburgh, coach Skip Holtz said his team is getting back to fundamentals, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where the Bulls struggled last week.
“Tuesday practice, kind of back to basics with what we did today … Defensive football isn’t just running to the ball, especially with the way Pitt plays,” Holtz said. “They make you play assignment football, and we did not do that very well … Everybody was just trying to make a play rather than doing their job.”
Pittsburgh running back Ray Graham rushed for 226 yards against the Bulls as the defense struggled to maintain gap integrity, creating holes.
“I think Pitt is a very good football team,” Holtz said. “I can handle (that) Pitt made some plays.Graham’s a great back. He’s going to make a couple people miss … Those don’t bother me. What angers me is our busted assignments, guys not being there …. those are the things that upset me, those are the things we can control and those are the things we have not done all year that we did Thursday night.”
Holtz said he and his team wanted to get on the field immediately and correct the mistakes, but with an open date on the schedule this week, they didn’t get that chance. The break could help them learn from their mistakes and provide enough time to correct them before facing Connecticut on Oct. 15.
Because of the bye week, the Bulls don’t have an opponent to focus on and senior safety Jerrell Young said the Bulls will, instead, focus on what improvements need to be made on their end.
“Every week we go into it, it isn’t about who we play, it’s about how we play,” Young said. “It’s not about anyone else. We feel like if we play our brand of football, we will come out with a victory.
“We were just trying to get back to the little things (Tuesday), like when you first start on defense,” he said. “How your feet are supposed to be set, how to rip though a gap, it was just the little things we focused on today,” he said.
Two backs thrive
While the defense struggled against the Panthers, the offense put in another good effort, including running backs Demetris Murray and Darrell Scott. Both backs averaged more than six yards per carry.
As USF’s leading returning rusher from last season, Murray began the year as a starter, a role he has since relinquished to Scott. Even so, the pair split carries nearly evenly, with Scott getting 12 carries against Pittsburgh, compared to Murray’s 10.
Holtz said Murray has adjusted well to his split role in the Bulls’ two-man backfield.
“We need both Demetris Murray and Darrell Scott,” Holtz said. “Demetris Murray is a valuable part of what we do. Demetris Murray is a guy that’s kind of flown under the radar when it comes to publicity … He did a great job with a couple of drives where he had an opportunity to play on Thursday night … You need two backs because these guys take a lot of poundings.”