By Leo Haggerty


South Florida returns home after a two-game road trip to take on East Carolina at Raymond James Stadium.  The Bulls are 1-2 (0-1 in the American Athletic Conference) on the campaign and the Pirates are looking for their first win after two contests (0-1 in the AAC) in 2020.  Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EDT.

Had a chance to catch up with the Green & Gold’s Head Coach Jeff Scott this week.  Below are the answers to my questions concerning the upcoming contest with the Pirates.  Enjoy.

LH : Facing the situation that you have in front of you, East Carolina is in the same place as you are.  They’re trying to get their program back on track.  How important is this game for you on Saturday night?

JS : Obviously, they are all-in for it.  The big thing that I told our players is that East Carolina is a dangerous team.  You turn on the tape and you see what they did in their first game against Central Florida.  In the first two quarters, and the last quarter, they had a lot of success.  They have lost their last two games just like we have lost our last two games.  I know Coach Houston and his staff.  They are great coaches.  They’ll have their guys ready and, any time you have your back against the wall, you are going to respond.  So, I told our guys that they need to be ready to play our best game.  I feel very confident that East Carolina is going to play their best game on Saturday night.  Looking at where we both are right now, they are a year ahead of us with the new coaching change, and where we are this year, this game is very important early in the year to both teams in terms of what a win can bring on Saturday night.  It could have a really positive impact on the games we have remaining in this season.

LH : Normally, when something happens, you have coaches on your staff that have experienced it.  If not, you can pick up the phone and call 20 other coaches who have been through something.  Nobody has been through this.  There’s no light at the end of the tunnel.  Everyone is basically groping in the dark.  How hard is it on you and your staff not have a game plan for the pandemic?

JS : It’s challenging, for sure.  When you look at it over the five years or ten years or twenty years, there’s nothing like it.  If you look at it over the last 10 months, it looks the same.  I think from where we are, as coaches, you have a very narrow focus when you’re in the season.  Now, it’s day-by-day and test-by-test and hour-by-hour.  There is no doubt that this is a challenge for everybody, right?  At all levels of football.  The NFL and college and high school all have these challenges.  For us, we have just accepted that this is what, at least, 2020 is going to look like.  The earlier you can understand that, and continue to move forward and try to have a positive attitude, the better you’ll be.  I’m really disappointed with our record after three games.  I’m really pleased with how our staff and how our players have handled themselves the last 10 months.  Since I got here, I guess that would be the last seven months, we have been dealing with the pandemic and they have really done a great job and responded very well during some unprecedented times.

LH : I know this is very small sample size but, after three games, what’s your biggest positive and biggest negative so far this season?

JS : Man, positive and negative, those are some tough words to use right now in 2020.  I would say that the biggest positive is the way that our players have bought into the new culture and the new expectations and what we have asked them to do off the field as well as even on the practice field.  I think that really is a positive.  Coming in, I thought there would be a lot more challenges to our culture and what we’re asking them to do, accountability wise, as opposed to where we have been.  The arrow is pointing up as far as what we are asking our guys to do off the field.  It’s just the little things in meetings and expectations.  The biggest negative would be self-inflicted wounds.  You know, anytime that we’re playing, we don’t want to beat ourselves. One thing that I want our program to be know for is that we’re not going to beat ourselves.  We’re not going to snap the ball over the punter’s head.  We’re not going to throw five interceptions.  We’re not going to allow a kickoff return for a touchdown.  Things that we can control, based off being disciplined and doing what we’re asked to do, that’s probably the biggest negative right now.  I don’t want to take anything away from the other teams and what they did.  They had to make the plays and we’ve played some good teams.  Still, I think there’s a lot of things that we can control and we haven’t done a great job of that yet.  That would be a big part of turning the tide a little bit and getting us in the win column.  We have to take advantage of not doing those bad things on Saturday night.

So, it’s time for a prediction.  Right now, I’m 3-0 when it comes to my USF prognostications.

I’m picking the Bulls to rebound and get their first conference win of the season in a high-scoring affair.  USF, 38-28, as the Green & Gold notch their first AAC win.