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USF working to prevent another blowout loss this weekend

The Bulls hold an eight-game winning streak over UConn, dating back to 2012. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

USF urgently needs defensive adjustments following two consecutive blowout losses where it allowed 56 points each game. Bulls coach Alex Golesh is more concerned with off-field morale than performance just after the midway point of the regular season. 

“You’re monumentally concerned [about the lack of confidence]… Absolutely I’m concerned, in every imaginable way. As a matter of fact, I’m ‘cant sleep’ concerned. But you instill confidence by going to work,” he said. 

Golesh is no stranger to a rebuilding team, facing this type of adversity in his former coaching tenures at Illinois, Iowa State and Tennessee. He said he’s well-aware of the trials and tribulations of being part of a young program without much winning experience. 

“It’s been very, very similar. And it’s been a roller coaster of success, failure, success until you figure out what exactly gets you to be successful and why you’re failing,” Golesh said. 

The past two weeks have been a less-than-desired effort for the entirety of the team, after getting off to a 3-2 start and earning national recognition for quarterback and defensive play.

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“For two weeks we’ve not effectively played hard enough. Schematically we’re in the right spot, we’re not playing as fast as we need to. There’s no excuse there, and that starts with me and ends with me,” Golesh said. 

The defense shot up the NCAA rankings for both sacks and tackles for loss after allowing only 17 points from SEC dynasty Alabama. In the four outings since then, the Bulls have allowed an average of 42.8 points per game. 

Golesh says that the defensive shortcomings also have an effect on offensive play calling, especially the ability to balance running and passing plays.

Related: Takeaways: Time to be honest about USF’s defense after demoralizing Homecoming loss to FAU

“When you’re playing from behind, it’s really hard to be balanced and effectively control the game how you want to control the game. Statistically, it doesn’t look bad but efficiency is not good,”  Golesh said. 

Turnovers also limit offensive productivity, as USF has been shut out four of the last eight quarters. The Bulls have given up 13 turnovers in just seven games this season. 

“The turnovers have caught up to us in a huge way in terms of putting the football on the ground,” Golesh said. 

The Bulls will try to bounce back in a road match against UConn, an opponent that USF has historically fared well against. 

USF holds a 12-5 record against the Huskies (1-5), the most wins against a single program in school history. Despite its record, the Bulls should not take their next opponent for granted.

The Huskies are on an upward trajectory. After nearly defeating Utah State, UConn scored a season high 38 points in a win over Rice. 

Golesh sees similarities between the Bulls and the Huskies. UConn is led by second-year head coach Jim Mora, who took over a team that hasn’t seen a winning season in over a decade. 

“I think they’re in a similar position to us without being there. They’ve been fighting and scrapping but they haven’t been able to close out games,” 

UConn could find itself in a similar position as last season. After the Huskies began the 2022 season with a 1-4 record, they won five of their last seven games, qualifying for their first bowl game since 2015. 

USF aims to avoid being the catalyst for another UConn midseason turnaround.

“They’re really sound and they play really, really hard. And we’re going to have to play harder than them if we want to come away with the win,”  Golesh said.

USF will take on UConn on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. The game will be broadcasted on CBS Sports Network and Bulls Unlimited.