USF football has not succeeded on a road trip since 2019 and judgments are surfacing regarding coach Jeff Scott’s ability to lead the program.
However, USF (1-4, 0-1) plays Cincinnati on Saturday at Nippert Stadium and the Bulls are not losing hope despite the discouragement from losing records.
Scott said he notices the hunger the Bulls have and sees the players that show up to practice with an attitude to learn.
“I would say the No. 1 thing is our guys haven’t quit,” Scott said. “One of the best things we’re doing right now is showing up each and every day no matter what happens.”
Having only won one game so far this season, Scott acknowledged the frustration USF fans are feeling. He knew the job of running a football program would be a lot of work when he took the position and is committed to making it work.
“This is not a program where you can just come in and change a few things [and in two years] all of a sudden you’re winning 11 games,” he said. “I mean, this is truly a process.”
One of the biggest threats the Bearcats (4-1, 1-0) pose is their defensive line. Cincinnati currently leads the NCAA with 23 sacks, eight solo tackles for loss and 24 assisted tackles for loss. Scott said the pressure they’ll bring is impressive since each of their defensive starters have at least one sack this season so far.
“Watching their defense I would say there’s a chance this could be the best defense that we face since I’ve been here in two and a half years,” Scott said.
USF has an eye out for senior linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. Scott said besides his speed and size, his ability to take on a quarterback is going to be challenging. Pace is currently tied for second in the country for six sacks in five games and posts 56 total tackles.
The Bearcat’s offensive line does well protecting their senior quarterback Ben Bryant who has 1,383 passing yards and 13 touchdowns. Freshman defensive back Aamaris Brown said the Bearcats’ receivers are their biggest threat. Especially junior wide receiver Tyler Scott, who has a total of 500 receiving yards this season.
“They have good speed, good releases [and] they know how to attack the ball. We just got to play with good technique and good confidence and everything should be able to go smoothly,” Brown said.
Playing smoothly might still be a challenge for the Bulls because they currently have 11 injured starters. On defense, linebacker Antonio Grier, defensive end Rashawn Yates and sophomore defensive back TJ Robinson are still suffering from injuries, according to Scott.
On offense, offensive lineman Donovan Jennings, running back Jaren Mangham and wide receiver Latrell Williams are continuing to heal as well.
Junior defensive back Daquan Evans however, returned to practice Tuesday and Scott is hopeful he will be able to play Saturday. Brown said Evans’ return will help USF’s cornerback room.
“He’s a big part of our defense,” Brown said. “The knowledge that he has of the game we definitely miss it.”
Scott also mentioned that junior running back Kelley Joiner Jr. has taken his boot off and is able to run. He hopes he can return to practice next week.
Seeing some players come back gives a glimmer of hope for USF. However, the frustration from Bulls fans continue to haunt the program. Scott knows this weekend there is a very small margin for error and is asking fans to be patient the rest of the season.
“It’s very easy to say, ‘Man, look at our record, we’re not doing what we want to do, we just need to blow it all up and start over.’ But that would be a mistake,” Scott said.
“I just ask that our fans continue to support our players. We need everybody and we know nobody likes where we are. But we’re not going to get to where we want to go just by continuing to push reset.”
USF will head to Cincinnati to face the Bearcats on Oct. 8 at 2:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and Bulls Unlimited.