Still looking to bounce back

Like most of the offense, the offensive line has to be better, according to USF coaches. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

After two losses, USF (0-2) will be looking for its first win of the season Saturday at Raymond James Stadium against South Carolina State.

Although the Bulldogs (2-0) are an FCS team, they shouldn’t be underestimated. South Carolina State has two sizable wins under its belt — a 28-13 win over Wofford and a 34-0 shutout win over Lane College. 

Given USF’s last two performances, Saturday’s game may very well be a toss-up. Strong defensive performances from South Carolina State may only add to USF’s offensive woes.

Junior defensive lineman Roderick Perry was one of three Bulldogs named to the MEAC Players of the Week after last week’s win. Perry stood out with five tackles, including three tackles for a loss of 13 yards.

USF is ranked last in the AAC in total points  with 10 and the Bulls are currently the only team in the conference without a win.

“This has been a very tough two weeks for me,” offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell said. “We’ve got to find a way out of it and we’ve got to get some confidence.”

Picking apart the offense and pointing fingers isn’t the key to making progress. The quarterback situation isn’t the only thing to blame, according to Bell.

“There’s a lot of other things that went wrong too, so we got a lot to address,” Bell said.

Bell pointed out that the running game needs attention as much as the quarterback situation. USF only has 119 rushing yards in 53 attempts.

“I tell people it’s not third down that’s the problem, it’s first down,” Bell said. “We run the ball, we get hit for yards lost … we’ve got to make sure we’re fundamentally sound and when we have a called play that we execute at a high level and stay in good down and distance, it helps our quarterbacks.”

The offensive line, which has given up eight sacks this season and has been the root of much of the offensive issues, was also addressed. Sophomore Donovan Jennings will play left tackle, which will shift senior William Atterbury back to right guard.

“What [Jennings] did play in high school was left tackle, so we want to put him back at his comfortable position,” Bell said. “[Atterbury], his footwork is really fundamentally sound [at guard].”

Bell also wants to see more effort from junior Jarrett Hopple and senior Marcus Norman.

Overall, Bell’s goal is finding out how to work out the kinks in his offense, which he said isn’t an easy task.

“Shoot, I’m figuring out what I can do, I’m staying up all night and I’m not getting much sleep,” Bell said. “A lot of it’s on me, so we’ve got to come together and play a really good football game … let’s go get this thing going.”

Meanwhile, the defense played what Strong called one of the best performances in years against Georgia Tech on Saturday.

Due to a targeting penalty late in the fourth quarter on Saturday, senior linebacker Patrick Macon, who leads the defense with 14 tackles, will be required to sit out the first half, which will add a layer of uncertainty to the defense.

The offense and defense alone don’t win games, however. A joint effort is needed to climb out of the hole USF has fallen down, according to Strong.

“From offense to defense to kicking game, we’re a team,” Strong said. “We win as a team, we play as a team, we lose as a team.”

And Strong said that the objective is to show that the Bulls are better than how they’ve performed in the past two weeks. He stressed the fate of the team lies on the coaching staff’s shoulders — the talent is there but guidance is crucial.

“We’re better than what we’re showing right now,” Strong said. “I told the coaches we’ve got to keep going. Because the players are going to play the way we [coach them] … it’s got to be confidence, they got to believe in themselves. And we’ve got to make sure that whoever they put on the field they can execute and do everything we asked them to do.”

The game will be broadcast on ESPN3 at 6 p.m.