Three weeks into the season, it seems as if the only reliability from the USF football teams offense has been the absence of a traditional running game.
While senior running back Demetris Murray leads the team with 38 carries, senior quarterback B.J. Daniels carried the brunt of the teams running game in its two games in BCS competition, against Nevada and Rutgers.
In those two games, Daniels led the team in carries with 26 and rushing yards with 121. Coach Skip Holtz said he has seen an uncharacteristic performance from his offensive line.
We only had about 20 called runs (Thursday night) because we really werent able to do anything, Holtz said. It wouldnt bother me as much if it was all physical, but there were a lot of mental breakdowns, uncharacteristic from what we had been doing all week. In practice you block in a certain front, and then you go out there in the game and its like everything was forgotten.
Murray, who leads a rushing attack that ranks 91st in the nation at 129.7 yards per game, said a few simple changes can prevent the Bulls from becoming one-sided on offense.
After watching film from our last game, we really left a lot of things on the field, Murray said. When you go around and people say the running game isnt working, or its not doing anything, thats not true. Were just beating ourselves, were not dotting the is and crossing the ts. Once we start doing that well be a little better.
Senior offensive tackle Mark Popek, a point of stability on an offensive line that has seen multiple starters at both tackle positions, said the youth and lack of experience with three underclassmen starters may have contributed to the rough start.
I think with a team like Rutgers it takes experience, he said. And, I think for the younger guys, theres a lot of mental breakdowns and mistakes that hurt us. We just werent focused enough to do well, and that was apparent.
While Daniels was not sacked in the loss to Rutgers, he was continuously under pressure, running the ball 15 times and frequently being forced to throw from out of the pocket. Holtz said the lack of protection contributed to Daniels three-interception night.
When the pocket is there, I think B.J. usually did a good job of staying in it, but the pocket just wasnt there, he said. Were being a little unfair to him, asking him to play quarterback when theres so much pressure
on him with just a four man rush, they dont even have to bring a blitz.
With the characteristically tough and physical defenses of the Big East awaiting the Bulls after two non-conference games, Murray said the offensive line is aware that it needs to establish consistency in both run and pass blocking.
After the loss, in practice, they came out focused, with a chip on their shoulders, he said. They were aggressive and hitting hard…we cant keep telling them come on, lets do this, lets go they know what they need to do, theyre blue collar guys, they work and thats what theyre going to do.