By Leo Haggerty


After a big win home win over Florida A&M, the South Florida heads back on the road to take on Brigham Young in Provo.  Kickoff is scheduled for 10:15 ET and the expected temperature is the low 50s with a light breeze plus almost no chance of precipitation.  So, in other words, perfect football weather.

The week started out with the usual Tuesday in person presser on campus.  The participants were HC Jeff Scott, as he usually does, followed by C Brad Cecil then DB T.J. Robinson.  Below are their responses to my questions.

LH : This is your first major road trip.  Two time zones and elevation.  You have players that have never seen snow and they’ll see it on the top of the mountains.  What’s that going to be like?

JS : I asked one of our players yesterday if he knew anything about high altitude.  He said that means it’s windy, right?  There’s a little bit more science to it than that.  Yeah, I’m not sure many of our guys know exactly where we’re going yet.  They’ll get on Google and look at it.  The travel time is obviously longer.  Four hours and fifteen minutes.  We are going out a day earlier.  We are going to leave Thursday afternoon, so like we talked about, to get out there and to get everybody settled.  It’s not just for the long travel day but also for the time change.  I think the earlier that you get on their time zone for all your meals and sleep patterns and that kind of stuff will help us rather than running in their the day before.  Yeah, no doubt, it’s a challenge for our guys and we’re saying this is a business trip.  This is not a vacation.  Yes, it’s something that you’ll remember for a long time but we need to be able to keep our focus.  This will be kind of that next challenge for our guys.

LH : Will you have a chance to do a walk through on Friday so your players will have a chance to get acclimated to that first couple minutes where their chest is pounding and they don’t know why?

JS : We don’t always go by the visiting stadiums.  We did at Notre Dame.  That was kind of a very unique deal.  We do plan, if they allow us, to go by there Friday afternoon to walk around a little bit. and see it.  One thing that I think is unique is that we were practicing out here today and it was close to 90 degrees.  It’s probably going to be around 60 degrees at kickoff come Saturday night.  That will be a different change.

LH : BYU has around 40 Polynesian players on their roster.  It’s like a pipeline going from there to Brigham Young.  If those guys are like Bucs Vita Vea, you’re talking about some great athletes, right?

JS : Yeah, it’s unique.  I was looking at the back up quarterback that came in late when the starter had the air knocked out of him, and I was looking up where he came from, and he graduated in 2015.  That’s the same year that Charlie Weis graduated.  I told some of our guys that they are old.  They got mature guys that really know what to do.  Again, it’s a good test for our guys.  To watch the video and see that this group is kind of challenging.  Ultimately, that’s what we need.  If we’re trying to get better as a program, we need to play guys that are going to be a really big challenge for us.  We need to show progress against teams like this from where we were at the beginning of the year.

LH : From an age standpoint, it’s like playing an NFL team, isn’t it?

JS : Yeah, bur we do have a 27 year old punter.  I got an older punter.  Obviously, I’ve had a lot of respect for the BYU program for a long time.  Florida State, many years ago and I didn’t get to go, got to play out there and I got stories from that from my dad.  Now that we’re playing them, and I’ve had a few days to get acclimated and to watch everything, it is very impressive.  Their program, the number of guys that they have, is really deep.  They got a number of big guys.  Offensive and defensive lineman with a lot of depth at those positions.

LH : When you look at McClain, a year ago at this time he riding the school bus to high school.  Today, he’s running a big time program.  Are you amazed with his progression, so far, to get to this point?

JS : You know, he was here in the spring.  I’ll say this.  Because of Covid, we didn’t have him in camp.  So, we didn’t really know where he was just like a lot of guys.  When he came in the spring, we went wow, we got one here.  He’s really talented and has a lot to do.  I don’t think anyone on our team, players or coaches, are surprised at where he is.  I think he would tell you that he’s not particular pleased where he is right now.  He know that he can do better.  I think the guys that have been around him for the last nine months know that he’s a pretty talented guy.  I think that he’s not 100% healthy.  That hamstring he’s kind of battling through a little bit.  I think, whenever he gets back to being completely healthy, he has another gear when running the ball.  Just getting comfortable.  You saw him out there still trying to figure things out.  He has some times in the pocket where he has to slow down his feet a little bit and relax and let the ball go.  That’s just part of a young guy getting out there for the first time, with the bullets flying, and figuring it out.

LH :  What do see watching Brigham Young.  Your talking about guys that are 24 and 25 and 26 years old guys out there.  They’re men, aren’t they?

BC : Yeah but we have some old guys on our team, too.  When I first looked at the film, like Coach Scott said, they’re a physical team.  They’re big and they’re very disciplined but it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before.  Every teams we played, they have big guys and they got disciplined guys.  I think they have more than we’ve seen in the past. This is just another test for us.

LH : When you talk about a physical team in the trenches, these guys just want to beat you up, don’t they?

BC : Of course.  That’s what the trench life is.  Imposing your will on someone when they don’t want to be moved.  Anyone, on any team, is going to want to move you.  You can tell by they way they play, that’s their intentions.

LH : It was a long time between wins.  How nice was it to wake up Sunday and know you finally got a W?

BC : It was really nice.  We enjoyed it.  Coach Scott always tells us about the 24 hour rule.  A win or a loss, it’s time to move on.  We celebrated in the locker room.  You saw all of us dancing.  After 24 hours, it’s time to move on.  So, we’re just excited about this opportunity.  We have some good momentum going forward.  We going to go out there and, when it’s game time, hit somebody.

LH : A lot of your teammates have never left Florida.  You’ve been to Rutgers so you know about the cold.  Are they leaning to you to let them know what the weather is going to be like?

TJR : Honestly, no.  I feel like, some of the transfers and some of our players, they travel throughout the year playing different schools.  They’re going to be ready and used to playing in the cold.

LH : Have you ever played at altitude before?

TJR : No sir.  This will be my first time.

LH : How nice was it to wake up Sunday with a win?

TJR : Honestly, it felt great.  It was like one of the best feelings ever.  That was like my first collegiate game winning.  So, I’m 1-0.

On Wednesday, had a chance to talk to both coordinators.  DC Glenn Spencer and OC Charlie Weis joined the media on a Zoom call.  Below are their answers to my queries.

LH : When an offense starts to shift or motion, 11 guys on defense have to recognize it and communicate it probably in five seconds or less.  With crowd noise being a problem out at BYU, are you planning on using hand signals for that?

GS : Yeah, we have hand signals.  It’s everybody recognizing it and yelling and hand signals.  The defense will have to adjust more than others.  If you have an anchored front, you don’t have to adjust as much.  The problem is when you have a rotation defense that calls for guys to move when you have change of strengths and Y trades are different than motions.  Sometimes you have to bump and sometimes he has to rip.  That’s the world that we live in that is college football today.  Teams that do well execute these things.  Now, they have to execute it right.  They have to shift right.  The timing has to be right.  It’s a lot different against a team that doesn’t move.  We have to deal with crowd noise all this week.  It’s mainly been on the offensive field.  It’s also important for the defense.  It’s caused us to deal with communication details.  Our defense won’t hear me screaming at them this week.  They’ll probably like that.

LH : The BYU defense, from an age standpoint, is an NFL defense. Does that force you to change the game plan to like throwing the football more than running it?

CW : You have to adjust your game plan depending upon the opponent you are playing.  I think the one thing that stands out when you watch BYU on defense is their strength and physicality.  I don’t know if that’s an age thing or that they just have recruited very well.   They have some really dang good players.  They are  really smart and they’ll come up and hit you.  They are really nasty.  I don’t know if that necessarily means that you throw the ball more and massively tailor your game plan around that.  We have to come with some ways to create space for our guys.  That definitely stands out.  They’re a great defense and a great challenge.  We’re excited for this opportunity and we feel we have a great plan.

That was our last access for the week until kickoff.  That was due to the fact that USF decided, and rightfully so, to leave on Thursday so everyone could become as acclimated as possible to the 4,551 foot elevation and the two time zone chance along with the colder weather before the Saturday evening kickoff.

South Florida dug too deep a hole and couldn’t climb out as Brigham Young chalked up a 35-27 victory at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo Saturday evening.  The Cougars moved to 4-0 with the win and the Bulls dropped to 1-3 on the campaign.

BYU sprinted to an early 21-0 advantage scoring the first three times the had the football.  After taking the opening kickoff, the Cougars went 80 yards in four plays taking only 1:55 to dent the scoreboard first.  QB Baylor Romney (20-of-25 for 305 yards and 3 TD) found TE Masen Wake (5 for 24 yards and 1 TD) for a five yard scoring strike at 13:05 of the opening period.  K Justen Smith split the uprights and Brigham Young had a quick 7-0 lead.

After USF went three-and-out on it’s initial  possession, BYU increased its margin at 9:16 of the first period.  This time RB Tyler Allgeier (15 for 86 yards and 2 TD) plowed in from a yard out to cap off a five play drive that traversed 65 yards in 1:44.  Smith converted the PAT and the Cougars increased their advantage to 14-zip.

Brigham Young was not finished scoring in the first 15 minutes. When the Bulls turned the ball over on downs, BYU cashed in again with 4:20 left in the first stanza.  It was Allgeier again from a yard away to close out an eight play drive that took 3:33 to travel 34 yards.  Smith was true again and BYU sprinted to a 21-nil lead.

South Florida finally put points on the board at 12:41 of the second quarter.  K Spencer Shrader booted a 29 yard field goal that finished off a 13 play drive that ate up 6:39 going 59 yards to cut the Cougars lead to 21-3.

After Brigham Young was forced to punt, the Green & Gold added to its score at 4:57 of the second period.  Again, it’s Shrader with the three pointer with this kick of the 42 yard variety. The FG completed a 65 yard drive that took 12 plays and 5:07 that inched the Bulls closer at 21-6.

BYU answered on their next possession with just 1:06 before halftime.  Romney connected with WR Neil Pau’u (4 for 42 yards and 1 TD) with a nine yard aerial that took 3:51 to go 70 yards in seven plays.  Smith was perfect with the extra point and the Cougars took a 28-6 lead into halftime.

South Florida took the second half kickoff and cashed in at 7:25 of the third period.  WR Xavier Weaver (1 for 3 yards and 1 TD) rambled three yards to pay dirt that ended a 13 play drive that took 7:35 to go 75 yards.  Shrader kicked the PAT and USF cut the deficit to 28-13.

Brigham Young came right back with a score of their own at 5:40 of the thrd quarter.  Romney found WR Gunnar Romney (5 for 119 yards and 1 TD) with a 47 yard catch and run that ended a four play drive that went 75 yards in 1:45.  Smith hit the conversion and the Blue & White stretched their lead to 35-13.

The Bulls still had life and scored on their next possession at 3:03 of the third stanza.  RB Jaren Mangham (26 for 86 yards and 2 TD) powered in from two yards out that capped a 2:37 drive that went 45 yards in six plays.  Shrader kicked the PAT to bring USF closer at 35-20.

South Florida scored again at 5:41 of the final period.  Mangham found the end zone again this time from a yard out to culminate a 94 yard drive that took 19 plays and chewed up 9:05.  Shrader successfully converted the PAT and the Green & Gold were back in the game trailing 35-27.

Unfortunately, USF wouldn’t see the pigskin again and the comeback would not materialize.  There are some positives to build on for the conference opener next week against SMU in Dallas.