The USF offense faces a tough test Saturday night as it plays on the road against a Rutgers team that, according to USF coach Skip Holtz, has “had their number” in recent years.
Holtz’s team will have to be focused and prepared offensively, as it faces a Rutgers defense that is ranked 20th in the nation in points allowed per game and second in the country in overall red zone defense.
“The thing about Rutgers is that they are probably the most complex defense, or at least one of the most complex defenses, that we face in our conference, year in and year out,” offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said.
Winning the turnover battle will be key for USF as it faces a talented secondary.
“They lead the league in interceptions and what they do a great job (with) is their pressure package,” Fitch said. “They do a good job of putting pressure on the quarterback, making him feel a little uneasy in the pocket.”
The Bulls’ biggest challenge offensively will be continuing their success in the passing game with the loss of redshirt sophomore wide receiver Sterling Griffin and his 40 receptions to injury. Griffin has been ruled out for the rest of the regular season, but could be back for a bowl game, should the Bulls qualify.
Without Griffin, USF redshirt junior quarterback B.J. Daniels will have three freshman wide receivers in Andre Davis, Ruben Gonzalez and Deonte Welch, trying to provide a spark offensively. The trio has combined on the season for 23 catches, for 359 yards and two touchdowns.
Holtz said he understands his young receivers will be tested by the aggressive Rutgers defense that ranks fourth nationally in interceptions, but trusts their playing time early on in the season will allow them to be more confident come game time Saturday.
“It’ll be a bit of a challenge for them,” he said. “The defense will be right in their face the entire time. They’ll be making them work for everything. There will be some nerves, but I’m excited to watch them on Saturday.”
Despite heavy pressure to perform, Holtz said he wants his team to be able to share the responsibility and take the pressure of having to replace Griffin off his freshmen.
“We won’t just rely on (three freshman receivers) to carry the offensive burden,” he said. “We are going to have to have our offensive line to carry some of the burden. B.J., as a junior, needs to carry the burden. Our running game needs to carry a little more of the burden.”