Facing a quarterback who is ranked second in the Big East with a 160.4 pass efficiency rating may not be the ideal situation for the only team in the Football Bowl Subdivision that has yet to record an interception in 2012, but the USF football team has a chance for a confidence boost.
Not only have the Bulls failed to intercept a pass through six games, but they are tied with Syracuse who they will play at Homecoming for the lowest turnover margin in the conference at negative 10. With Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater awaiting the Bulls in Kentucky, senior linebacker Sam Barrington said the team needs to be more aggressive in forcing turnovers.
Weve played a lot of good, efficient quarterbacks this season, he said. And weve got another one in Teddy Bridgewater this weekend, so there needs to be a more concerted effort to force the turnovers rather than waiting for them to give the ball away.
With four total turnovers forced by the USF defense through six games, Barrington said to be more consistent, USF must create pressure and take advantage of opportunities.
We definitely need to do things to force turnovers, he said. We need to hit the ball carrier harder and put more pressure on the quarterback.
Though a teams defensive secondary may be targeted for a lack of production, coach Skip Holtz said it starts with the play of the defensive line.
Weve got to get pressure and force the quarterback to throw the ball in averse situations or make him eat it and take a sack either way is good, Holtz said.
With teams looking to reduce the impact of USFs defensive line by throwing quick passes with the quarterback dropping fewer steps, defensive coordinator Chris Cosh said the line has to combat the short passes by getting into passing lanes.
We need to get better at defending passes at the line, he said. Weve got to get into the throwing lanes and understand that not everything is going to be a five- or seven-step drop. Sometimes theres that three-step drop, and you have to get your hands up and affect the passes that way.
Holtz said the Bulls need to do a better job avoiding turnovers on offense to make up for the turnover drought on defense.
I dont think theres any doubt our lack of turnovers have a big impact, along with the turnovers on offense, he said. Weve got to do a better job as coaches in making sure our players are comfortable with their positions.
With all four of the teams losses coming by margins of 13 points or fewer, Barrington said being able to create turnovers could change the entire fate of the season.
Weve been so close in all the games and we havent recorded a turnover, he said. So if we had three or four turnovers it would be a totally different story.
Holtz said the turnovers will come organically if the team can get back to its basics, and looked back to the teams practices in Vero Beach over the summer.
We keep reverting back to Vero, where its just all about each other were playing hard and its just football, he said. You want to not get so caught up in the result, but its still about fundamentals and execution. Its kind of like a double edged sword where you dont want to pound and hammer on it, but you still have to keep teaching it.