Bulls to be tested in boisterous BYU environment

Freshman quarterback Timmy McClain (center) went 12-of-23 for 163 yards and a touchdown against Florida A&M in his first career start. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

Not only will the Bulls have to deal with No. 15  BYU on the field Saturday, they will also have to fight against the crowd noise at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

“This will be, probably, the loudest environment that we’ve played in all year,” coach Jeff Scott said in a press conference Tuesday. “For us, when you’re watching the football copy of video, they show the end zone copy [and] the camera is shaking the entire time [because of the noise.]

“I think Arizona State might have had four or five false starts [against BYU last Saturday.] They were trying to clap, and it was so loud, they couldn’t hear the clap. Then they tried to start going on the hand [signal.] It definitely is something for us to really focus in on, especially with a young quarterback going out and playing in that environment. That’ll be a big test for him.”

Freshman quarterback Timmy McClain made, and won, the first start of his collegiate career Sept. 18 against Florida A&M. This time, however, the Seminole High School product will be tasked with going on the road and facing a nationally ranked foe.

In preparation for the environment the Bulls are heading into, USF has increased the crowd noise in its practices to simulate what it may sound like in an in-game situation.

“It’s really important for the quarterback, as he communicates the call to the offensive line and everybody else from the backsides to the wideouts. He’s got to be very loud, making sure that he gets the calls across,” offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. said Wednesday in a press conference.

“He’s got to just do a great job of being very defined in his voice, and then doing a great job of having multiple cadences to be able to handle the noise, you’ve got to be able to be ready for that. It’s obviously going to be a great challenge, but like I said, we’ve been practicing for a week and hammering that home. We’ve got to have great communication across the entire offense in order to have a successful day.”

The Cougars feature a number of veteran players, giving them a level of experience USF must prepare for.

“I told some of our guys they’re old,” Scott said. “They’ve got mature guys that really know what to do. It’s a good test for our guys to be able to watch the video and see … that this group is going to challenge you.

“Ultimately, that’s what we need as we’re trying to get better as a program. We need to play guys that are going to be a real big challenge for us. We need to show progress against teams like this from maybe where we were at the beginning of the year.”

One of those more experienced players is sophomore quarterback Jarren Hall, who played against USF in 2019 when the Bulls beat BYU 27-23. He was 15-of-23 for 148 yards and a touchdown in that game. He also rushed for 83 yards on 16 attempts.

Hall is a more seasoned player now, however, and defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer likened his talents to that of a current NFL quarterback.

“I was telling my guys earlier in the week in the scouting report, he reminds me of Baker Mayfield,” Spencer said Wednesday. “The way he can deal the ball and the way he can run around and escape. If you saw that game last week [against] Arizona State, [when] he’s running, he’s not trying to slide. He’s not tapping out, he’s lowering his shoulder down. He’s tough.

“I saw him … [get hit] a few times and [slammed] into the [ground,] and he just kept getting up. So I respect him a lot. Also you see the deep balls, he has touch. He can throw it back shoulder, he can put it off outside the red line on the deep balls, right on the money. So, we’ve got our hands full.”

Between traveling to Provo, Utah, on Thursday, playing in a late game against a ranked team Saturday night, and then traveling to SMU the following week to open conference play, these next two weeks will likely be filled with multiple obstacles for the Bulls.

Scott said it is exactly what the program needs to get better.

“Honestly, where we are right now as a team and a program, we need all this we can get,” Scott said. “I mean, you don’t get better just having it really easy. We need as much of this as we can get, and we need to not just get through it, but we need to be able to move forward and get better through the difficulty.

“Sometimes when you’re uncomfortable and you’re out of that comfort zone, that’s when you grow the most, and I think as a team we need that, coaches, players, everybody.”

The Bulls and Cougars are set to kick off Saturday at 10:15 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2 and broadcast on 95.3/620 WDAE/iHeartRadio Bulls Unlimited.

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