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The Bulls are hitting the road after a disappointing game against Louisville on homecoming where they were blown out 34-3. USF failed to score an offensive for their third straight game (program record) and saw their defense beaten up the entire afternoon.
Now they must hit the road to face 6-1 (3-0) Houston on Thursday and will be turning the ball to a true freshman in hopes of sparking something on this team. Houston averages 42 PPG while USF manages just 14 PPG, so this could be a very interesting game for the Bulls. Here are the 5 things I'll be watching closely on Thursday.
Thursday night curse?
It's been a long time since USF has won on a Thursday night. In fact, its been since 2009 since the Bulls got a win on Thursday night (beat FAU on opening day).
Is it a curse? Bad luck? Or just falling victim to a perfect storm on Thursday nights in front of a national TV audience. It is hard to say, it could be a combination of all three, but the Bulls have a chance to change history when they take the stage on Thursday night.
The Bulls will be in Texas, about a three hour flight from home and in a new environment that many on this team have never seen. It will be a very interesting game to see if the Bulls can change their fate on Thursday nights and make history on the road.
Mike White show
Coach Willie Taggart pulled Bench late last Saturday and burned the redshirt of freshman QB Mike White, handing the reigns over to the freshman hoping to find a spark.
What will we see from White? He is a 6'4" young man with a nice arm and ability to move in the pocket. He is confidence and has a little "swagger" like Coach Taggart says, perhaps giving him a little confidence, something he could lend to teammates and feed off of.
The Bulls are trying to find a spark of any kind and it is clear they haven't seen it all year and didn't think it was coming anytime soon with Bench or Eveld (ankle injury), so they are hoping the freshman can do something to wake the offense up. I'm note sure what he can do out there, but we will all get to see in just a few days.
3 straight games, no offensive touchdowns
Where is the offense! 3 straight games, no offensive touchdowns at all. That is a program record that no one ever wanted to see but it has become the brutal truth for this team.
Bad offensive line play, no Marcus Shaw for two games, bad quarterback play, dropped passes from the receiving corps, it has been bad, real bad. The Bulls are now on the road facing a team that allows 157 yards a game on the ground, 282 yards a game through the air, and 22 points per game. If the Bulls are going to get on track, this could be their chance. Will they win the game? Can't say and following our recent history, we probably won't but we may see some more progress.
A sustained drive, an offensive touchdown - that would be very nice.
Defense must continue to play
The defense has played well this year, coming up with interceptions, tackles for loss, and before Louisville, they helped the Bulls win the games.
They are allowing 30 PPG, 156 yards a game on the ground, and 221 yards through the air, but have played better than the numbers are showing. They have allowed the Bulls to stay in the games and have come up big, but are facing a huge test with Houston.
The Cougars are averaging 324 yards a game through the air and 171 yards a game on the ground, posing a huge challenge for the unit that was just gashed by Teddy Bridgewater. Now they have to hit the road on a short week against a team battling for the conference title.
The Bulls need the defense to fly to the ball and come up with big plays, either with interceptions or forcing fumbles. USF can't survive if they allow the Cougars to just sit back there and throw it all over the field against the Bulls.
Coaches, gut check time
Alright coaching staff, we are 2-5, have a freshman starting on a short week in front of a national audience.
Coach Walt Wells, you have a talented young man, but he needs help. You have to get after the offensive line to hit the sleds better. You have to get the running backs going. You have to get into the ears of the receivers to catch the passes. But above all, you have to game plan for Mike White and not force him to put the team on his back and make throws that he can't at this stage. Make it simple and help him.
Coach Chuck Bresnahan. You have done well and the team is coming up with a lot of takeaways, but we are facing a beast of an offense. You have to adjust the zone coverage and take away the passes underneath that ate up the defense. Players have to tackle better and their has to be better communication in the secondary between the safeties and corners so players are not left on islands out there.
Coach Taggart, time to shine. The USF fans are with you during this rebuilding time, the players are as well, but we want to see more progress. You are looking for playmakers out there and are gambling with Mike White to spark this offense. We are hoping you are able to continue to teach these young players that are seeing more playing time and to motivate the veterans that are seeing the adversity of this season. We love you coach, but we are praying for a little more from this team and not to be run over on national TV.