Entering USF’s third and final bye week of the season, coach Willie Taggart certainly has a lot to look at after the Bulls lost to Houston on Halloween night.
From seeing a spark in the offense, triggered by true freshman quarterback Mike White, and the receivers, Taggart can focus on things outside of the passing game for the first time this season.
With 10 USF receivers catching White’s 26 completions for 311 yards and a pair of touchdowns, fans may have been surprised, and though Taggart wasn’t, the receivers may have been taken aback too.
“I think our receivers weren’t used to that,” Taggart said. “They were catching the ball, looking to get hit, and they were wide open. I was like ‘Run! What’re you doing?’ But I think that’s just them getting used to Mike throwing on time and having an opportunity. They haven’t really had that chance all year.”
Taggart said the explanation for White’s success was simple.
“He prepared,” he said.
Senior running back Marcus Shaw said he saw White in the film room until 11 p.m. or midnight throughout the week leading into Houston, and the freshman “prepared for what he did.”
But the threat USF gave the Cougars through the air wasn’t all on White, and Shaw acknowledged that linemen played a big role.
“It was good to see the line come out and protect Mike,” Shaw said. “That was my favorite part.”
In the midst of White’s darts thrown around the field, Shaw was in the backfield, struggling to bounce back from a hamstring injury he suffered Oct. 5 to Cincinnati.
The senior, who was once a Top 10 rusher in the NCAA earlier in the season, added just 41 yards to the offense with his 18 carries. He began the season with an 80-yard touchdown run in the season opener. Against Houston, his longest run was seven yards.
“I didn’t even expect to play as much as I did,” Shaw said. “I was in the locker room before the game, and coach Wells came up to me and said, ‘You’re starting.’ I was like ‘OK’ and just tried to do the best I could.”
Shaw said it’s all about getting his feet under him now and getting back the explosiveness he once threatened opposing
The bye week should help in returning to his normal self, and he said he was at 90 percent in Houston, but that isn’t the case anymore.
“I feel like 100 yards,” Shaw said.
After watching film though, Taggart said it’s more than just his hamstring that needs work — something not hard to believe after sitting out for two straight games.
“Marcus was a little rusty,” Taggart said. “He missed a couple holes that earlier in the year, he saw a lot better than that night. He was trying to rush everything, just getting back, and going fast rather than allowing his blocks to take place first.”
In addition to the running game, the clear focus for Taggart and the Bulls is penalties.
Not much was said about the 19 penalties for 170 yards at Houston. Just as he explained White’s play, Taggart put it simply when he said, “we hurt ourselves.”
“We have to eliminate those penalties that did us in,” Taggart said. “I expect for that to be
From penalties to the ground game with Shaw, the answer to those problems and the team’s problems in general, can be found in a place that few would expect — the place kicker.
Redshirt junior Marvin Kloss is riding a streak going into USF’s next game at home against Memphis on Nov. 16 that has him as a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, given to college football’s top place kicker each year.
Kloss has made 13 straight field goals, a program record. This was all after missing his first field goal of the season.
“I owe it a lot to the guys blocking for me, it’s not just all me,” he said. “I just go out there and take it one step and one kick at a time.”
The Naples native said he wasn’t aware of the record until someone told him.
Regardless of whether he knew it or not, Taggart made it clear that the confidence Kloss brings to the field when he steps behind the holder is something that needs to be reflected by the whole team, especially with the Bulls heading home to face Memphis then SMU on Nov. 23.