Bulls looking for offense to click, avoid history repeating against Rice

The Bulls offense is looking to improve off a 17-3 loss against Alabama in which they failed to score a touchdown. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

After a spirited battle against No. 13 Alabama last Saturday, USF football is hungry to turn their effort into a win this week against Rice. 

It’s an eerily similar position to last year in which the Bulls (1-2) almost defeated then-ranked No. 17 Florida 31-28. 

The next week, USF lost to Louisville in a 41-3 blowout. The Bulls are trying to avoid repeating history. 

Head coach Alex Golesh applauded his team’s defense against the Crimson Tide (2-1), but emphasized the importance of turning effort into execution going into Saturday’s game versus Rice (2-1).

“Defensively, we’ve got to get better, and offensively from an execution standpoint, I think we’re still off. We’re still continuing to grow there but we’re not clicking anywhere near where we should be,” Golesh said. 

The effort was certainly present against Alabama despite the loss. The Bulls defense played well beyond expectations, keeping Alabama from reaching the endzone until the third quarter.

Because of this, the Crimson Tide fell out of the top 10 in the AP Poll for the first time since 2016. Heading into the first conference matchup of the season, The Bulls’ offensive execution must improve to get back in the winning column.

USF could only muster 3.6 yards per play against Alabama as redshirt freshman quarterback Byrum Brown failed to reach 100 passing yards. 

Brown has also been sacked 16 times through three games, which is the second highest sack total in the nation.

Golesh emphasized the importance of first down offense setting the tone for the rest of the drive. 

“Whatever the end result of the first down is how you’re able to pick it up and get the drive going,” Golesh said.

“We’re continuing to find ways to make sure we get [the offense] started quick.” 

Rice is one of six new teams that joined the American Athletic Conference, with this matchup marking USF’s first time facing the Owls.

Last week, Rice defeated Texas Southern in a 59-7 blowout. The Owls garnered national attention after a 43-41 double-overtime win over Houston on Sept. 9.

Senior Rice quarterback JT Daniels is a key player for the Bulls to watch on Saturday. The journeyman single-caller made stops at USC, Georgia and West Virginia before landing at Rice for his sixth collegiate season. 

Daniels has thrown for 805 yards in three games for the Owls. His eight passing touchdowns ties for 14th in the nation. 

Golesh emphasized the importance of executing mistake-free defense against such a versatile and experienced quarterback. 

“[Daniels is] really, really multiple. His ability to be multiple, and by that I mean being able to play under center, in the gun, multiple formations shifts. It allows their offense to play and be uber multiple. That’s what having a veteran quarterback does,” he said.

Golesh also said the defense has to play a sound game to combat Daniels’ experience.

“We’ve got to be really, really sound in what we do in terms of being able to adjust the different [defensive] pictures,” Golesh said. 

The Bulls defense has enjoyed a notable couple of games, holding Alabama’s offense to historic lows just one week after forcing five turnovers against Florida A&M.

The defensive backs have been the leader of USF’s revamped defense this season, as the Bulls’ six takeaways tie for the 25th most in the nation. Junior safety Logan Berryhill leads the team with two interceptions, which both occurred against the Rattlers.

He spoke about the secondary’s new identity this season, rebounding after finishing as one of the worst-ranked pass defenses last season. 

“We all have different attitudes and different personalities,” he said. “Every time we come together, it’s fun, we all bring our whole selves to the party.” 

Berryhill emphasized the seamless transition from practice into gameplay, and how the Bulls must maintain their execution in practice to the games itself. 

“If we practice hard every day, then Saturday is going to be just another day of practice,” Berryhill said. “It will be fun, just in front of everyone else.”