Bulls looking to come out of open week strong against Tulsa

Tulsa senior running back Shamari Brooks is averaging 4.8 yards per carry on 86 attempts. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/TULSAHURRICANE.COM

USF’s open week gave players and staff an opportunity to put the first five games of the season behind them.

Coach Jeff Scott said he wants the Bulls to remember what they’ve learned over their 1-4 start, but not to harp on the issues that have plagued them as they head into the final seven regular-season games, starting with Saturday’s noon kickoff against Tulsa at Raymond James Stadium.

“The message [to the team] is, if we can take the lessons that we learned, good and bad, from those first five weeks, and apply it to the next seven games, then we’ve got a chance to have a good finish and a good season,” Scott said.

“If we let the negative things from those first five games creep in and continue to follow us and slow us down, then we won’t [have a good finish]. Ultimately, that’s a decision that the players and leadership have to make.”

Aside from an earlier win against Florida A&M in Week 3, an FCS school, the against Tulsa is USF’s best chance of winning a game so far this season, according to ESPN’s FPI.

The tool projects the Bulls to have a 44.9% chance of winning against the Golden Hurricane, the highest percentage USF is currently scheduled to see for the rest of the season, save a 69.3% projection for next week’s game against Temple.

If the Bulls want to come off the open week with a win, they must figure a way to slow down a Tulsa offense that both runs the ball well and takes deep shots down the field when given the opportunity.

The Golden Hurricane features three running backs with senior Shamari Brooks, who has rushed for 416 yards and three touchdowns on 86 attempts, leading the way.

Brooks is complemented by redshirt sophomore Anthony Watkins and junior Deneric Prince, each who have over 250 yards on the season.

When the Golden Hurricane is successful in establishing the run, it forces opponents to commit more players to the box, which in turn opens opportunities for shots down the field.

“Coach [Phillip] Montgomery is a tremendous play caller,” defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said Wednesday. “I went against him many years at Baylor when I was at Oklahoma State. It’s that system where they’re going to play fast, they’re going to take shots at you. At any time they can go vertical on you.

“[They’ve] got some receivers that run really, really, really good routes. You’ll see them, you think they are pushing off to go deep [and then] they’ll stick it and come back for 10 yards.”

Tulsa’s leading receiver is senior Josh Johnson who has caught 35 passes for 508 yards and two touchdowns. The Golden Hurricane is 18th in the country in yards per pass attempt (8.5) and 10th best in yards per completion (14.59).

Throwing those passes down the field is redshirt junior quarterback Davis Brin, a Texas native who is in the midst of his first season as the starting signal-caller for Tulsa. Through his first six collegiate starts, Brin has completed 58% of his passes for 1,649 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions.

“[Brin] is going to try and throw in some tight windows,” Spencer said. “And he’s got the arm to do it.”

To turn the page and make a dent in the win column, Scott said the players and coaches have to make a decision to take what they have learned and use it to improve.

“At the end of the day the choice is ours,” Scott said. “The choice is [on] the coaching staff and the players. Are we going to allow what happened in the first five games to make us stronger [and] hungrier to go out and play better? Or are we going to allow it to bring us down and lose confidence and just go through the motions?

“Ultimately that’s a decision everybody has to make, and that’s a decision you have to make each and every day.”