Discipline to be key factor heading into road test against Navy

Bulls coach Alex Golesh emphasized the importance of cutting back on penalties going against Navy. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

USF football will begin a two-game road trip on Saturday against Navy, looking to break a 19-game losing streak on the road.

The Bulls (2-2, 1-0 AAC) won their last away game on Oct. 26, 2019 while facing East Carolina. 

This will be USF’s first inter-conference road game of the season. Navy (1-2, 0-1 AAC) is coming off a 28-24 loss against Memphis on Sept. 14. 

Despite a season-best offensive performance last week, one thing Bulls coach Alex Golesh is focused on fixing is reducing the team’s penalties – specifically the unsportsmanlike conduct calls. 

Discipline will be a major factor for the Bulls on Saturday, as USF’s 39 penalties are the third most in the country.

“It’s complete nonsense,” Golesh said. “Act like you’ve been there before.”

He cited two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties from last week, with one on junior wide receiver Sean Atkins and another on an undisclosed coach. 

Navy poses a distinct threat to USF given its unique triple-option offense and disciplined approach. Its two turnovers this season tie for the third-fewest in the nation. The Midshipmen are also tied for the fewest penalties in the FBS, as well as the fewest penalty yardage.

“You’re getting a really disciplined, tough, hard-nosed football team on three sides of the ball,” Golesh said. “They’re in the right spots at the right time, all the time.”  

“We’ve gotten better every week from a penalty standpoint. That’s been the emphasis, to get better and better.”  

Facing a Navy offense known for its running attack, the Bulls’ run defense comes into this week riding a historic performance. USF limited Rice to only one rushing yard, their lowest total allowed since 2017. It also ranked as the sixth-fewest in program history. 

USF ranks fifth nationally in tackles for loss and 18th in sacks this season. 

For junior defensive tackle Rashad Cheney, this defensive resurgence doesn’t come as a surprise. 

“I knew it was going to happen, it was just a matter of time,” Cheney said. “We’re nowhere near our potential, we still watch film to get it done right.”

The rushing defense will be put to the test against the Midshipmen, whose run-heavy offense is notoriously taxing to defend. Due to recruiting limitations, Navy almost exclusively runs the ball. It has averaged 222.3 rushing yards per game, which ranks as the 10th most in the country. 

This season, however, they have begun to run a more diversified offense under first-year head coach Brian Newberry. 

“They’ve certainly tried to throw it more, play in the [shotgun formation] a little bit more,” Golesh said. “It certainly seems like they’ve added more each and every single week. You could tell that the offense is continuing to grow.” 

USF will take on Navy at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Saturday. The game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network and Bulls Unlimited.