BULLS : GOAL LINE STAND : EAST CAROLINA
By Leo Haggerty
South Florida returns to the friendly confines of Raymond James Stadium for an 8 PM kickoff against East Carolina as both teams begin their American Athletic Conference slate. The Bulls (3-0) are coming off a late win against Illinois at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Pirates (1-1) lost one to Mother Nature when Hurricane Florence cancelled their game with Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
USF has dominated the last two contests but this is a new year. Hopefully, last week was a wake up call for playing a team you smacked down last year because the Illini were really ready to play.
Look for ECU HC Scottie Montgomery to have reminded his team incessantly of the fact that they were embarrassed in Greenville last year. Two years ago, the Green & Gold rubbed their noses in it with a meaningless last-second long pass in Tampa when the game was no longer in doubt.
Here are my four keys to victory for the Bulls. Let’s see if I can hit the nail on the head again like I did last week. Enjoy
EXPECT AN EXTREMELY MOTIVATED OPPONENT
If USF learned anything from last week’s dogfight against Illinois it better be that revenge is a great motivator. Look for ECU to come out with all guns blazing from the opening kickoff and there’s a specific reason for this.
The Bulls have flat-out beat the daylights out of the Pirates the last two seasons. In fact, two years ago at the RayJay in HC Willie Taggert’s last season, South Florida rubbed salt in the Pirates wounds by throwing two long passes to score a meaningless touchdown as time expired.
Trust me, East Carolina probably had a loop of those plays running in their locker room all week. They will be loaded for bear so the Bulls better be ready to match their intensity. If not, they’ll be in for another street fight in Tampa.
AGGRESSIVE PLAY CALLING
This one is going to be short and sweet. Attack don’t react.
Take the game to the ECU defense. Force the Pirates to make plays. Find the weak link in the East Carolina defense and go after it with a vengeance.
SET THE TONE EARLY ON DEFENSE
Play bully football from the opening whistle. Swamp to the pigskin and gang tackle.
I know this isn’t Georgia Tech where it was big boy football. I know this is Illinois with a bunch of freshmen that don’t know any better yet.
Still, the Pirates have a win over a Power 5 opponent in North Carolina to the tune of 41-19. Don’t let the East Carolina offense get comfortable because they can put up points in a hurry.
GET THE LEAD
Let’s put all the cards on the table, shall we? The Bulls are the ultimate front-runners. When they get the lead, they run away and hide.
USF needs to put up points on their first possession and not look back. The Green & Gold need to score early and score often. Don’t let ECU get back into the contest.
I believe HC Charlie Strong has emphasized to his charges the importance of not looking past an opponent. I believe the Bulls will take that message and put it to good use. USF, 45-28, as the Bulls start fast and keep the pedal to the metal.