BULLS : GOAL LINE STAND : CONNECTICUT
By Leo Haggerty

This Saturday, South Florida travels north to take on Connecticut at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.  The Bulls are 7-1 (4-1 in the American Athletic Conference East) losing their first game last week to Houston 28-24.  The Huskies are 3-5 (2-3 in the AAC East division) and are coming off a home trouncing by Missouri to the tune of 52-12.  Kickoff is at 3:30 and temperatures are not suppose to exceed the mid-fifties.

How are the Bulls going to get the stampede back on the cattle train on this cold and dreary New England afternoon?  Check out below for the four boxes the Bulls have to check to come away with a victory over UCONN.

1ST & GOAL – FORGET ABOUT IT

OK, game’s over.  The dream of a perfect season no longer exists.  The Bulls have a single blemish on the right side of the dash when it comes to their record.  It’s time to forget about it and move on.

The one thing you want to prevent, in any athletic endeavor, is having one loss fester into two defeats.  HC Charlie Strong will be conscious of that fact all week.  Remember, it’s not the Bulls head man’s first rodeo.

Yes, USF now has a loss but South Florida still controls its own destiny.  Win at Connecticut and the dream of an AAC title and a favorable bowl invite is still a very real possibility.

If the Green & Gold lose at UCONN, the expectations are shattered.  Yes, 9-2 is a good season but not what the Bulls were looking for when they traveled to San Jose for the opener.

USF needs to shake off any of the negativity of the Houston loss.  If not, we’ll be talking about what could have been instead of what should be next week.

2ND & GOAL – SET THE TONE EARLY

The big mistake South Florida made last week was they allowed Houston to stay in the game.  The longer the Cougars hung around, the more they believed they could beat the Bulls and that’s exactly what happened with a last-minute touchdown.

USF doesn’t need an offensive repeat performance of last Saturday when the Bulls came up empty on their first four possessions in regard to points.  That would give the Huskies the idea that they can play with South Florida and that would put the Green & Gold in another every-down battle that they really don’t want.

Take the heart out of UCONN early.  Get the lead and extend the lead.

Make Connecticut play catch-up from the get-go.  That way the Huskies don’t have the same momentum and enthusiasm that Houston had in the fourth quarter.

We saw last week what can happen if a team has the ball and a chance to win late in the contest.  None of that this week, please.  Make sure it’s over early.

3RD & GOAL – STAY AHEAD OF THE STICKS

The big, and I mean big, problem against Houston was that the Bulls found themselves in numerous 2nd-and-long as well as third-and-long situations.  When that happens, it not only limits your play selection to almost exclusively a pass but it turns the pass rushers loose.

I have to give it to Houston.  Their defensive game plan was exceptional.  The Cougars lined up in a three-man front on any long-yardage situation and brought a blitz package that included even late-arriving defensive backs.

Because UH was coming from every different position on the field, USF was forced to throw quick three-step drop routes.  To their credit, Houston missed very few tackles so their was very little YAC (Yards After Contact) which is a staple of the USF offense.

South Florida needs to keep every down at a manageable distance.  Staying behind the sticks could bring disastrous results as we saw last weekend.

Connecticut may not have the athletes to replicate what the Cougars did last Saturday afternoon.  What they do have is the blueprint on film.

4TH & GOAL – NO SPECIAL TEAMS BLUNDERS

Usually, when you have two teams that are evenly-matched, special teams is a major factor in determining the outcome of the contest.  The other is turnovers.

Special teams has been the Achilles heel of the Bulls all season.  Blocked punts, and there was one by Houston Saturday night, and blocked kicks have occurred on way too large a scale for USF.  Not only is it a sudden-change opportunity for the guys in the other color jerseys but it could lead to immediate points with a Scoop 6.

South Florida needs to play a clean game when it comes to special teams.  Nothing fancy.  Just no mistakes.

I know the biggest factor facing the Bulls will be the weather.  Look for USF to have a little bit of trouble getting into high gear on both sides of the ball especially if precipitation of some kind becomes involved in the equation.

Still, look for a bounce-back win for the Bulls.  I’m saying USF 35-20.