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Both sides of ball look for consistency, confidence

Dwayne Boyles makes a tackle Saturday against UConn. Boyles recorded 14 tackles the last two weeks. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/GOUSFBULLS

If there’s one thing that’s consistent for USF in 2019, it’s a lack of consistency.

The Bulls (2-3, 1-1 AAC) have put up some dreadful performances — most notably in Week 1 against Wisconsin and Week 4 against SMU.

Then there have been flashes of brilliance, like last week’s 48-22 victory against UConn.

When USF faces BYU (2-3) at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (TV: CBS Sports Network/Radio: WDAE-AM 620), the Bulls will look to maintain consistency and confidence from last week’s rout.

“Consistency is so critical, but also confidence,” coach Charlie Strong said. “We need to be consistent, put it all together, play with some confidence and match last week’s performance.”

The good news is that as the Bulls attempt to play with some consistency and confidence, things are tangibly getting better, especially on the offensive side of the ball. 

USF averaged 4.5 explosive plays entering the UConn game (plays of 20 or more yards). 

The Bulls broke off nine against the Huskies, which is something offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell said had been lacking.

“That’s one thing we’re missing some is the explosive plays,” Bell said. “We had a few in the run game, and then a couple of passes last week.

“But we’re missing some easy ones, man. We missed some easy touchdown throws. And Jordan [McCloud] sees them. We show them to him on film. And we’re just a little late, we’re just a little bit off here or there. But they’re getting better. We’re getting there.”

The rushing game has also been up and down. Entering the UConn game, the Bulls’ run game was averaging less than 100 yards. It exploded for a season-high 313 yards Saturday.

That performance may be what instills the confidence Strong is looking for.

“We’re going to take the same approach … to this game,” senior running back Trevon Sands said. “It’s no different. It’s just a different opponent … once we get us right, we could beat anyone.”

The Bulls’ defense has also been looking for more consistency, though in a different way.

USF’s defense had its fair share of stellar performances through the season’s first five games. It limited Georgia Tech to under 300 yards and took the ball away eight times against South Carolina State. 

Saturday’s five-sack performance was just the latest way the Bulls’ defense put up big numbers.

Figuring out the key in making sure all aspects of the defense fire isn’t easy, according to defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary, though at the end, the goal is still the same.

“If I had the answer to that, I would be writing books and be making a lot of money,” Jean-Mary said. “Whatever we need to do to get the ball back for our offense — whether it’s forcing the team to punt, turning the ball over on downs, getting the interception, getting the fumble, getting sacks — that’s always our goal.”

The defense is playing with confidence, according to sophomore linebacker Dwayne Boyles. Boyles recorded 14 tackles the last two games.

“Even though we lost before UConn, our confidence raised up throughout practice,” Boyles said. “We took more pride in the practice, worked hard on the field. And that translates to Saturday.”