The USF football team was close to breaking its 17-game losing streak to FBS opponents against Tulsa last week, but the Golden Hurricane narrowly escaped Tampa with a win Saturday.
As the Bulls look to move on from the loss, they must use their heartbreak as motivation to finish better, according to coach Jeff Scott. The Bulls were up 11 points in the fourth quarter against the Golden Hurricane, but couldn’t shut the door.
“We’ve got to turn our focus 100% to Temple,” Scott said in a Wednesday press conference. “Hopefully [we can] use that game Saturday as encouragement for how close we are to breaking through and maybe [use it as] some motivation to practice a little bit better to finish off some of those situations.”
Temple is 3-3 compared to USF’s 1-5 mark, but the Bulls have a 69.6% chance to win the game, according to ESPN’s FPI. It’s the first time USF is favored to win since Week 3 against Florida A&M.
A 52-3 loss against then-No. 5 Cincinnati on Oct. 8 was the last time the Owls took the field, as they are traveling to play USF after an open week. Temple’s strong suit is defending the pass. They rank No. 9 in the country in passing yards allowed per game.
“They do a great job in the back-end, secondary,” offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. said Wednesday. “They mix up their coverages really well, you’re going to see a whole different variety of coverages.
“There’s some carryover from the scheme that we played last week against Tulsa where they’ve kind of got the three safety look in the back end, and there’s a multitude of things that they do out of that, which can be a little tricky.”
Although their pass defense holds strong, the Owls’ run defense isn’t as impressive. Temple allows 187.8 rush yards per contest.
As a result, the Bulls may find more success in handing the ball off rather than passing it, specifically to junior running back Jaren Mangham. The Colorado transfer has proven to be an integral part of USF’s offense, most notably with his 10 rushing touchdowns on the season.
The program record for rushing touchdowns in a single season by one player is 18, set by former quarterback Quinton Flowers in 2016.
Through the first five games, Mangham appeared to be a strong, short-yardage type of runner, but against Tulsa, he flashed some elusiveness and vision.
“[Mangham] didn’t disappoint when he got those opportunities [to run to the outside,]” Weis Jr. said. “He definitely did that a little bit more [against Tulsa] than we’ve seen in the past, so it was definitely impressive.
“He’s really just continued to be a staple in our offense and somebody, when he gets the ball in his hands, who continues to do really good things. So we’ve got to make sure we get him the ball as much as possible.”
No matter how the coaching staff tries to attack the Owls, getting a win against not only an FBS program, but also a conference foe, would be a huge building block for the Bulls moving forward.
“We’re at the point where we need to win,” Scott said. “We need to get over that hump. I really believe that when we do, it’s just going to bring more confidence and more energy and be able to push through and to lead to more wins the rest of the year.”
The Bulls take on the Owls at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+ and broadcasted on iHeartRadio Bulls Unlimited.