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Cincinnati offense poses challenges

In Tuesday’s media luncheon press conference, USF coach Skip Holtz praised the job his defense did last week in Connecticut. He credited the open date a week earlier for the defensive improvements.

“I thought the defense made the most out of the open date,” Holtz said. “We improved, we got better, the attitude was great, I thought the defense played very well.”

USF’s defense racked up a school-record seven sacks against the Huskies, but will face another impressive opponent Saturday in Cincinnati.

The Bulls will have their hands full, as it faces a team that ranks in the top 20 in three categories. The Bearcats rank 11th in points scored per game (41.7), 18th in rushing yards per game (213.7) and 15th in points against (16.5).

According to Holtz, the Bearcats’ offensive playmaking starts with senior quarterback Zach Collaros.

Collaros is 102-for-159 with 1,187 yards passing and 11 touchdowns through six games played.

“They’re a very talented offensive football team with a lot of weapons,” Holtz said. It all starts with Collaros being able to beat you with his arm, with his mind and with his speed as well, and he has done all three this year.

The Bearcats are two-dimensional offensively, with a strong running game to complement the passing attack.

The Bearcats are 11th in the country in rushing offense, mainly due to the play of senior running back Isaiah Pead. So far this season, he has 624 yards rushing and has scored eight touchdowns, with at least one in every game.

“Offensively, they have one of the better running backs in the league, very similar to (Ray) Graham, who we played at Pitt,” Holtz said. “When you look at Pead … he’s got speed, power – he is probably a bigger, more physical Graham, would be the best way to put it.”

USF junior linebacker Sam Barrington said Pead and Collaros are the Bearcats’ top weapons and will be the focus of the Bulls’ defense Saturday.

“They got guys all across their offensive depth chart,” Barrington said. “So you gotta come hard, you gotta prepare. You gotta prepare like if it is was anybody else. Those guys are doing a very good job executing on offense.

“Zach Collaros is doing a great job,” he said. “We had our trouble with them last year, so we gotta come and we gotta contain Isaiah Pead. He is a great player.”