Heading into Week 6 of USF football, the Bulls are flying out to Ohio to face No. 24 Cincinnati with a surplus of details to pay attention to.
Both USF’s defense and offense has struggled to find what identity will lead them to their much-desired success, not only from the team, but the coaches as well.
Here is what to keep an eye on before watching the Bulls (1-4, 0-1) face the Bearcats (4-1, 1-0) this weekend.
Coming off their contest in Boca Raton against the Pirates, the Bull’s defense remains in the bottom ranks in the country as they are only allowing 7.15 yards per play, putting them 5th to last out of 131 FBS teams.
On top of that, injuries have been a rising concern for defensive coordinator Bob Shoop.
“It’s been hard to be consistent because of our injuries. I feel like every Sunday and Monday, first thing we’re doing is ‘OK. Who’s up?’” Shoop said.
Some notable defensemen that have been missing from the field include graduate students Rashawn Yates and Antonio Grier who have seen very little playing time in the 2022 campaign.
Looking into the Bearcat’s offense, quarterback Ben Bryant has 1,383 yards so far this season with 13 touchdowns and 107 completions.
Bryant and his offensive line prove a challenge to USF, with additional talent supporting the quarterback as well, according to Shoop.
“Bryant is a very capable quarterback, he averages nearly 300 yards a game passing. They have two awesome tight ends,” Shoop said. “Good speed at the wideout and good backs. The offensive line works really really well together.”
To take on the talented offense the Bearcats bring into the mix, the defense must stay steady and prepared for any outcome they provide play-by-play.
Just like its counterpart, USF’s offense has taken a beating in the last few games.
The pattern of slow starts continued in Saturday’s matchup against the Pirates, with the Bulls performing better after halftime. Despite winning the second half 21-7, the 41-7 hole they found themselves in going into the locker room was too much to overcome.
This week, USF needs to focus on its new offensive identity and clean up its mistakes to be able to match Cincinnati, USF’s second ranked opponent of the season, according to offensive coordinator Travis Trickett.
“We’re about to play a team this week that’s really, really good. Really, really good. We’ve got some guys down, upfront, guys out wide and in the backfield,” Trickett said. “We got to make sure we put those guys in position to be successful and give them at-bats. That’s the one thing we got to do is what can they do best that we know they can do?”
Cincinnati’s defense in particular poses a threat to the offense. In five games, the Bearcats have put up 405 tackles, 23 sacks and 21 passes defended.
With the talent they show, Cincinnati’s defensive strategies are what concerns Trickett the most.
“They are, in my opinion, better than they were last year on defense,” Trickett said. “I watched all the games from last year. I watched all the games this year. Really good defensively up front. The linebacker pace zero is dynamic. He changes them because he breaks when he wants. He can rush. He can play the run and the pass really well.”
Although the task at hand is intimidating, if the Bulls can find themselves in better momentum on Saturday the challenge may not be as daunting.
There are three things the Bulls will need to remember to find themselves in a better position than they have in their last contests, according to Trickett.
“We just gotta do the little things. We got to get going. We got to execute. We got to protect the ball. Then we’re gonna get started like we all want. I’m sitting there like ‘OK, well how can we start faster?’” he said.
“Trust me, I’m the first one that’s trying to get that done. Then when you do things, it’s still not clicking. We just gotta get out of our head and just play ball.”