If USF is to get its first conference win Saturday, it will have to do so in a stadium it has historically struggled in.
The Bulls (4-3, 0-3) have not had much luck visiting High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, N.J., in recent years, losing at Rutgers (5-3, 2-2) in each of their last two visits.
Rutgers has been a nuisance for the Bulls in general, with USF snapping a four-game losing skid to the Scarlet Knights in a 28-27 shootout during a Wednesday night game last season.
“I don’t refer back a lot,” coach Skip Holtz said. “I don’t refer back to that because I think it’s a different team, different leadership. Their team is different, with the quarterback, etc. (The players) know that Rutgers has been a team that has had our number. … I think having the opportunity to win last year will give them a little confidence going into this one.”
The Bulls had success last season in breaking long losing streaks, claiming road wins over both Louisville and Cincinnati for the first time ever.
The last time USF went to New Jersey to play Rutgers, it went as the No. 23 team in the country and got blown out 31-0.
If the Bulls are going to have any luck moving the ball against the Scarlet Knights and avoiding another shutout, they will have to focus on a few key defensive players, starting with senior linebacker Khaseem Greene.
Greene moved from free safety to weakside linebacker this season in what has been a positive move for the Scarlet Knights defense.
“(Greene), again, (is) very active,” Holtz said. “Their linebacker is No. 1 in the league in tackles.”
Standing at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, Greene has 75 tackles, 38 solo tackles and two sacks on the season.
Another focus for the Bulls is safety duo David Rowe and Duron Harmon. The two are contributing to a Scarlet Knights secondary that leads the Big East in creating turnovers, with 26.
“Their two safeties, I believe, are both, like, well one of them is ranked in the top 10 in interceptions because what they do is create a lot of pressure and give you some scheme problems up front and get you to throw the ball under duress,” Holtz said. “Then they are leading the league in turnovers as well.
“They are a very aggressive, active defense. They don’t sit and let you come to them. They don’t react. They initiate what they’re doing as a defense, and they do a nice job with it. “(Rutgers) coach (Greg) Schiano runs the defense, and he does a great job with it.”
USF redshirt junior quarterback B.J. Daniels said he’s aware of the aggressive Rutgers defense he faces and knows he won’t have much time in the pocket to make plays. He also said he knows how important it is that the Bulls win the turnover battle.
“They do a lot of things to try to confuse you,” Daniels said. “They are very athletic and fast on defense, and they do a great job of taking the ball away. … We have to be conscious of taking care of the ball and just being all tied into our fundamentals.”
Daniels said the man-to-man coverage on the perimeter and “in-your-face defense” Rutgers plays are elements USF’s offense faces in practice, as the Bulls’ defense runs the same type of scheme.
“Man-to-man coverage, yeah they’re in your face, but there are also opportunities that you have the opportunity to be the guy downfield, so you know, we are not worried or scared of man coverage,” he said. “I mean, you know, our defense plays man coverage in practice every day, so we’re not necessarily focused directly on that. We are focusing on what we need to do just to try to be successful.”