After nearly two years of winless football against FBS opponents, the Bulls finally broke through with a victory over Temple on Saturday, and coach Jeff Scott believes his team can build on the win moving forward against East Carolina and beyond.
“In my mind, [the victory] motivates them even more,” Scott said Monday afternoon. “Because now, it’s one thing as a coach to tell them they’re improving, and tell them that you’re proud of them, and how they are working and they’re responding well, but at the end of the day they’ve got to see results too.
“They can’t just keep hearing it and not get results. For them to see the hard work they put in and the response that they made last week truly turn into a victory, I think it’s just going to encourage and motivate them even more to what is possible here moving forward.”
To sustain their newfound momentum, the Bulls (2-5, 1-1 AAC) will have to battle the Pirates (3-4, 1-2 AAC) on short rest. They are also dealing with injuries to key players like freshman quarterback Timmy McClain and junior receiver Xavier Weaver, both of whom will have their availability decided closer to game day.
USF travels to Greenville on Wednesday and kicks off against ECU at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, just about five days separated from its win over Temple.
“It’s definitely a short week … It’s going to be a really, really quick turnaround,” Scott said. “I think the next 48 hours for us is going to be critical in our prep.”
The Pirates boast a deep roster featuring a number of talented players on both sides of the ball. Their Week 8 depth chart released Monday has a number of “or’s” on it, meaning they are confident in multiple players playing at a certain position.
“Or’s can be a good thing and a bad thing,” Scott said. “Sometimes you can have or’s because you’re not sure who your guy is, but they have ors because they have a lot of depth … As I’m watching their defense, they’ve got two deep that they feel really good about. You’ll see them, we may make a sub on offense and they may sub 11 for 11.”
Also a prominent part of ECU’s game plan is its tendency to send blitzes at a high rate. The Pirates currently rank second in the conference in sacks with 19, behind only Houston which has 29.
“They’re a physical group, they love to bring pressure,” Scott said. “They blitz about 80% of the time. It’s definitely going to be a really big week for our offensive line, running backs and tight ends in being able to pass protect. Their linebackers and safeties are coming pretty much every snap.”
Playing two games in five days is never easy, and going on the road to take on an opponent like ECU, which only has one loss by multiple possessions on the year, makes the task even harder.
Nevertheless, Scott said he is excited to see what his team has in the prime-time test.
“It’ll be a really great opportunity for our team and our program to hopefully showcase the progress that we’ve been making,” Scott said. “We’ll find out here [how much progress we’ve made] with the next big challenge Thursday night.”
The Bulls will take on ECU on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN and broadcast 95.3/620 WDAE/iHeartRadio Bulls Unlimited.