On Saturday, a different version of USF football faced then-No. 18 Florida. A victory may have not been added to the column, but a different win came to fruition for the Bulls (1-2).
The USF offense and defense made major strides of improvement. USF outperformed UF’s (2-1) offense with 286 rushing yards and 116 receiving yards against what was supposed to be one of the most talented quarterback productions. UF had 217 rushing yards and 112 passing.
Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said Saturday was different than every weekend that came before, as the team finally shined through.
“The most positive thing to me is I think we might have become a team after that game on Saturday, which are things that hopefully we can carry moving forward,” Shoop said.
Heading into another game against a talented team with an assembled quarterback, here is how offensive and defensive coordinators Travis Trickett and Bob Shoop are preparing to face Louisville.
When looking at Louisville (1-2), the team’s performances have been parallel to USF’s as it had a poor loss but great competition against Florida State on Sept. 16.
One of the major things the Bulls need to work on collectively as an offense to secure their second win of the season is the small things, according to Trickett. He said small miscues and missteps are what led to the loss on Saturday.
“It’s those little things where you get your at-bats, you have to make contested catches,” Trickett said. “We’re going to make sure this is a two-part series because you sit there and say, ‘All right, well, it’s the last play or the first play, that second to last drive or that last drive where we took a shutdown sideline to OD there. We just go to connect on some things.”
Other than making minor adjustments to clean up a talented offense, USF’s current setback digs deeper than what is happening on the field.
In recent weeks, some players have faced injuries, such as junior running back Kelley Joiner Jr. who is out with a broken foot, and sophomore wide receiver Jimmy Horn Jr. with an ankle sprain. With players like Joiner and Horn taking the sideline, these quick players won’t be there to contend against the Cardinals.
Louisville has a fast and productive defense that USF will need to stay steady against. While facing FSU, the Cardinals kept up with 69 tackles in the game, less than 10 away from the 78 tackles the Seminoles produced.
To Trickett, the Cardinals defense’s main goal will be to offset the Bulls’ offense as much as possible.
“They’re big and strong and fast. They’ve done a very good job recruiting D-lines. They’re probably more disruptive,” Trickett said. “Very aggressive, very disruptive up front, a lot of movement, a lot of pressure, a lot of negative plays. Those, and sacks.
“I think they had 10 sacks last week … They’re a more disruptive defense than what we played against last week. We have to make sure we have a good plan for that and execute it.”
Saturday brought a better understanding of what a solid defense can do against a top-20 team. Helping the offense outperform Florida, USF racked 46 tackles against a big and strong SEC defense.
A key takeaway Shoop noticed after taking on the Gators was the aggression of this sector.
“I think two things,” Shoop said. “I thought we played exceptionally hard, and that was positive. I thought that the way we came out in the second half, and got one punt, interception, punt, interception in the first four drives. The second half was really good. That was really my vision for how we’re capable of playing.”
With a put-together defense taking the field in Kentucky this weekend, Shoop’s line will have to get ready for another crafty quarterback, Malik Cunningham.
Cunningham had 21 completions in 34 attempts and 243 passing yards in Saturday’s game against Florida State. Shoop’s biggest concern is having to apply pressure on yet another dual-threat quarterback for the fourth time this season.
“He can make plays well through his arm and his feet,” Shoop said. “Do not underestimate his ability to pass and do not underestimate his speed. [He’ll] probably be the best athlete on the field.
“He’s most dangerous I think whenever he improvises and just makes things happen. They utilize them in the high and low red zone as a runner. He’s their leading rusher this year.”
Another concern about the Cardinals is their timing, according to Shoop. He said the tempo might come as a challenge.
“We want to introduce the world to the first no-huddle tempo defense,” Shoop said. “We want to be lined up looking them in the face and ready to rock and roll and we’re gonna take very, very good pride in being able to handle tempo and handle the things that the teams do.
“Tempo to me is when someone asks you, what’s two plus two. It’s obvious. It’s four. When they say it real fast, what’s two plus two? And you say ‘What’d you say’? That’s what tempo means.”