With only three weeks remaining in USF’s regular season, the Bulls find themselves in a situation all-too similar to the final stretch of 2015.
Just like last season, USF will need a Temple loss to reach the AAC Championship game, but coach Willie Taggart said he and the Bulls are paying no mind to the Owls.
“It’s the fourth quarter of the season and we have to finish strong,” Taggart said. “Our guys understand that and we still know that if we want what we all want, then we have to take care of these three ball games no matter what Temple does.
“We can’t worry about Temple and what they’re doing, it’ll drive you crazy if you do that. We have to take care of our business.”
First up among the Bulls’ final three games is Memphis, which has been the only AAC team to defeat Temple in 2016.
Despite losses in three of their last six games, the Tigers’ offense has averaged 38.8 points this season and will likely present a challenge for the Bulls, who rank 114 out of 128 FBS teams in total defense, according to the NCAA.
“They’re an explosive offense,” Taggart said. “They’re up-tempo, they do a really good job with their run-pass option, they kind of live by that. So, you have to be disciplined defensively. Probably more importantly, you have to be patient. You can’t just run all over the place because you think they’re running and they freeze up and throw the ball.”
Led by junior quarterback Riley Ferguson, who’s thrown for 2,565 yards and 21 touchdowns, the Tigers lead a balanced attack that has also produced 17 rushing touchdowns.
Redshirt junior Dorceus Doroland, who’s rushed for 559 yards and six scores, heads a backfield including two other players who have rushed for at least 345 yards and two scores in Patrick Taylor and Darrell Henderson.
Even with Memphis’ offensive success this season, defense has been its downfall, allowing 49.6 points per game in its three losses.
With both offenses rolling and the defenses struggling, USF quarterback Quinton Flowers said the emphasis over the bye week has been limiting turnovers.
“Before we go out against our defense, he stresses about us carrying the ball, holding the ball tight,” Flowers said. “He wants to see if Memphis can drive on our defense, so if we go three-and-out, we go three-and-out. But at the end of the day, we feel there’s no one that can stop our offense but ourselves.
“You saw it in the Navy game. If we capitalize and do what we’re supposed to do, we can score every drive we get.”
After USF hung 52 points on No. 22 Navy two weeks ago and Memphis scored 51 on SMU in Dallas this weekend, the Bulls will look to their offense to keep them in not only the game, but also the AAC title race when they travel to play at Memphis on Saturday at 7 p.m.
“We have three good games coming up and how we’re looking at it is every single game is the conference championship now,” defensive tackle Bruce Hector said. “If we lose one, we’re out of the race, so we’re looking at every single game like it’s a must-win, because it is.”