By Leo Haggerty


Very compressed Game Week for the Green & Gold.  USF will be travelling to Raleigh Wednesday to take on North Carolina State the next day.  Kickoff at Carter-Finley is scheduled for 7:30 pm EDT.  The Wolfpack hold a 2-1 advantage over the Bulls all time with the last contest ending in a 49-17 NC State victory in 2014.

On Monday, as you can see from the pictures taken by photo journalist Matt Crisp, I was in my usual front row seat for the in person weekly press conference in the Hall of Fame Room at The Selmon Center.  Below are my questions of HC Jeff Scott and WR Bryce Miller along with DT Thad Mangum

LH : Is the hay in the barn or are you still tweaking with the offensive and defensive game plans?

JS : Yeah, we’re pretty close.  We’ve had our game plan in for a couple days but we’ll still tweak it.  Tomorrow is a very important practice.  It would be our normal week Thursday practice where were in helmets.  We’ll do about 45 minutes of game plan versus scout and all of out kicking game.  That’s a critical piece.  Wednesday will be our typical Focus Friday where we have meetings and walk throughs.  There’s still plenty of work to do.  The game plan is in.  Now, it’s just a matter of refining it and making sure that every player understands the details of what we’re asking them to do with different situations and calls and plays that should be called that night.

LH :  You’ve had eight months to prepare for this game.  Is there a fear of paralysis of analysis?

JS : Every year, going into the first game, there’s a lot of things that you’re concerned with and seen.  The big message to our guys is to come and play at full speed.  Are they going to be perfect?  Absolutely not.  If you watched those games this past Saturday and, you can look at any opening game, you would see a lot of mistakes that were made.  The key is to play at full speed and not be out there thinking and just being able to react and respond to the situation and execute in a fashion to have success.  There’s still a lot of things that we have to do to get ready in these next three days.  Overall,  I’m pleased where we’re at heading.

LH : Is it an advantage to script plays?

JS : Yeah, I think it is.  I know everybody does it their own way.  I think the majority of people script their first nine or ten plays or however that is,  We’ve done that in the past.  When you script the plays, it’s not one through nine.  A third down or a special situation may take you off your script.  Sometimes, it may take you two or three series to get through all of your scripted plays.  I feel that it’s good for your offense to have confidence as to what the calls are going to be and you rep those a lot kind of getting ready.  It’s the same thing, I would say, on both sides.  I think to go out and execute the calls that we’re going to make early on and then gain as much knowledge as we can from those to see how they are going to defend us.  Another thing is that you can look at film all year long but, at the end of the day, people have an entire off season to change things.  I’m sure we’ll be feeling them out and they’ll be feeling us out a little bit.  We have to be ready to adjust.

LH : This is going to be first game in over a year where you’ll have significant crowd noise.  Will you deal with that by using hand signals?

BM : It shouldn’t be that much of a big difference as long as we can see our signs.  That’s really not an issue with fan noise if we’re locked in and focused.  You just have know what you’re doing.

TM : Coach has implemented crowd noise so we can practice in that.  I’m going to be fired up to play in front of that big crowd.  We just have to worry about us and execute the game plan.

On Tuesday, had the opportunity to Zoom conference with QB Cade Fortin along plus OC Charlie Weis and DC Glenn Spencer.  The following is their answers to my queries.

LH : When you’re out there for the coin, would you rather start with the ball or let the defense go out first or doesn’t it matter to you.

CF : For me, it doesn’t really matter.  Coach has a plan but I’m not sure that I’m allowed to share that right now at this point.  There’s a plan and Coach Scott will make that decision.

LH : There’s a slight chance that weather could be an issue with rain.  Have you been doing any wet ball drills this week? 

CF : It’s so humid down here in Florida it’s like we do a wet ball drill every day.  Honestly, I get sweat on my hands all the time.  Yes, we do a little bit of wet ball drills.  Weather is an external factor, for sure, but it’s something we can’t worry about.  If the forecast shows up with any weather issues, we’ll be ready on the sideline with towels and to make sure we have enough balls to sub in and out.  We’ll definitely be prepared if the weather becomes an issue.

LH : You win the toss, do you want the ball or do you want to defer or doesn’t it matter?

CW : That is way above my pay grade.  You need to ask that question of Coach Scott.

GS : I always want to be out there first.  That may not match up with the strategy that the head coach has planned for the game and how he wants to approach it.  Personally, I want to be on the field first but, if we’re out there second, that’s fine too but whatever they ask us to do, we’ll do.

LH : What’s the one box you have to check to have a chance to beat North Carolina State?

CW : I think there’s a few things but, number one, we have to take care of the ball.  Can’t turn the ball over.  We have to protect it.  Keep it on our side.  We just have to go out and execute our game plan and go out there and make plays.  We have to make plays down the field.  We’ll throw the ball a good bit but, to get that done, we’re going to have to run the ball.  We have to go and execute our plan but the one thing that we have to do is protect the football.

GS : We have to stop the run game.  They got big backs.  They got speed backs.  We haven’t seen guys like that among our own guys.  We have to deal with their speed.  We have to go through tackling drills but you can’t do full speed tackling.  They have some strong guys that look to run over you and they will run around you.  We have to stop the run.  Always.

So, that takes us to Thursday night and to say the results for the Green & Gold were disappointing would be an understatement.  South Florida was totally dominated on both side of the football by North Carolina State and was manhandled 45-0.

When you examine the statistics, the drubbing was even worse.  The Wolfpack outgained the Bulls 525 yards to 271 while running only one more play,  66 to 65. from scrimmage.

The advantage was on the ground as well as through the air. The Pack led in rushing, 293 to 104, and passing, 238 to 167, along with causing three turnovers while USF had only 1 takeaway.

The major reasons for the loss was twofold.  First, the war in the trenches was won decisively by NC State.  Both the offensive and defensive lines of the Red & White controlled the line of scrimmage for almost the entirety of the tilt.

The second was third down efficiency.  The Bulls couldn’t stay on the field by moving the chains, going 3-of-16, and weren’t able to get off the field, with the Wolfpack going 8-of-13, on the money down.

Now, it’s back to the drawing board for South Florida because it doesn’t get any easier.  The good news is the next game for USF is it’s home opener on September 11 and it should be a sellout.  The bad news is that the opposition is SEC member and in state rival University of Florida.  From the frying pan into the fire so to speak.

Look for our continuing coverage of Bulls football next week as they prepare for the Gators to come chomping from Gainesville into Tampa.  Until then, stay safe everyone.