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Bulls aim for more turnovers against N.C. State

Sophomore linebacker Nigel Harris (right), who leads the nation in forced fumbles, forced two in the fourth quarter 
against Maryland on Saturday. ORACLE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

With several starters of the offense suffering from injuries going into Saturday’s game against North Carolina State, the Bulls are hoping the other units on the field will make up for the battered offense.

Sophomore quarterback Mike White may still start this weekend after going through a compression fracture to his left forearm after the first play against Maryland. 

Coach Willie Taggart said White was ecstatic when he learned that his arm had no breaks in the bone.

“He found out before I did,” Taggart said. “Him and (junior quarterback Steven Bench) went to the doctors and he was excited that it wasn’t as bad as it was.”

Two other players whose status’ are up in the air are senior wide receiver Andre Davis and senior offensive lineman Thor Jozwiak. 

Davis bruised his sternum laying out to complete a 44-yard catch against Western Carolina and Taggart said he has had trouble talking and breathing since then. 

Jozwiak injured both his shoulder and toe in the season-opener.

“They’re getting better quick,” Taggart said. “They’re ahead of schedule rehabbing-wise. With the things Thor went through, we thought it would be a long time, but it’s not going to be a long time. I would hope for it to be this week, but I’m not sure.”

The return of Jozwiak will help stabilize an offensive line that has received scrutiny from the coaching staff for getting beat on blocking assignments too often. 

“Some young guys on the O-line have struggled at times and that hurt us,” Taggart said.

But regardless of who the starting quarterback is for USF on Saturday, the offense will face an unfamiliar defense in N.C. State. 

“Their base defense is a 4-2-5 so they have bigger corner backs and bigger safeties than most other schools we’ll face,” said senior tight end Mike McFarland. “They’re also really physical on the back end so we’ll have some work to do.”

So far this season, the Wolfpack defense has given up at least 23 points in both of their games, including Old Dominion scoring 34 points against them Saturday. 

The Bulls have had success in creating turnovers so far this season and the players said the defense is looking to continue making an identity for the team. 

“(Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan) talked about creating an identity for ourselves and as these past two weeks have went by, I guess our identity has been creating turnovers,” said sophomore linebacker Nigel Harris.

Harris said the defense is pushing for seven turnovers this week so they are making progress from their past game when they forced six. Harris said the key to forcing these turnovers is in the preparation. 

“Preparation is key for everything,” Harris said. “When you prepare yourself, you know what you’re doing so you don’t think on the field as much. When you think on the field, you tend to not play as fast as you normally would. Preparing yourself by understanding your opponent allows you to play faster and create more turnovers.” 

The Bulls won’t have to prepare for long to be familiar with N.C. State junior quarterback Jacoby Brissett. 

Brissett, like the two quarterbacks the Bulls have already played, will likely throw the ball often. He’s had 69 attempts through two games this season and has thrown only one interception. 

McFarland was able to watch Brissett play regularly when the two played together at the University of Florida. 

“He’s an athletic quarterback, like all the other quarterbacks we have faced and will face,” McFarland said. “He’s smart and he’s grown up some.”

USF will play against North Carolina State at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.