TAMPA — Here at Raymond James Stadium, halfway house to winless football and quarterback change, Sundays are for the Bucs. But make no mistake: Saturdays belong to South Florida.
USF head coach Willie Taggart got the jump and stepped on Greg Schiano’s toes on the line, the first to reach to 0-4 — with his new quarterback — as the Bulls lost again, 49-21 to reborn, 15th-ranked and far superior Miami.
Willie’s woes continue. But so does his confidence.
“Hell, yeah,” Taggart said. “Why not? I believe in myself. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe in myself.”
Note: USF backup quarterbacks Bobby Eveld and Matt Floyd did not ask for trades in exclusive interviews with ESPN. By the way, today on “NFL Countdown,” Boomer and the guys change Josh Freeman’s diaper.
The real question is whether any of the home teams will win at Raymond James this season. And don’t forget that prep powerhouse Plant High lost a preseason game this season at RayJay. The place might be haunted. I bet when the monster trucks come in for their annual shows, Grave Digger gets run off the mud by a Prius.
Back to the Bulls’ new starting QB. Steven Bench, a Penn State transfer, completed 13 of 27 passes for 189 yards. He looked good at times. Early in the game, Bench helped the Bulls tie it at 7. Later, he fumbled while being sacked in the end zone, leading to a Miami touchdown. Still later, he threw an interception.
Is it time to bench Bench?
Don’t be serious.
“He’s our guy,” Taggart said.
Or, as a wise man once said after making sure the thermostats were set right at Bucs headquarters … he gives us the best chance to win.
The real story here was just how far USF is from Miami, the Hurricanes having rejoined the Big Three. Right now, the tired notion of the Bulls making it a foursome is laughable. South Florida can’t even look McNeese State and Florida Atlantic in the eye without blinking.
Miami coach Al Golden is in his third season and has UM on the rise. Try 251 yards of Miami offense in the first quarter. Try 49-7 before Golden’s kinder, gentler Hurricanes shut it down.
Much of this speaks to what Taggart inherited from Skip Holtz. To say Skipper left the cupboard bare at USF is, well, he not only left it bare, he broke up the cupboard for firewood so he could burn his won-loss record. Holtz is now at Louisiana Tech, where he has turned that program around. It’s true. Tech won nine games last season. Skip is at 1-4 after Saturday’s loss to Army.
Taggart’s main problem is that it is a long way to next season and even further to a third season, as people are already howling. I think he deserves a chance. Firing someone after one season? Ridiculous. And that’s allowing for the fact that, looking at the rest of the Bulls’ 2013 schedule, it’s hard to find a win. Maybe Memphis or SMU. Maybe. Or maybe not, by the looks of Saturday.
Bench completed his first pass of the game for 17 yards, yet the Bulls somehow finished with 16 yards passing at halftime. There was the 101-yard kickoff return by Miami’s Duke Johnson nullified by a penalty, pinning Miami at its own 9. UM scored a TD six plays later.
There’s the fact that USF has scored six offensive touchdowns this season, but the other teams’ defenses have combined for six themselves. Or those 540 yards of offense from Miami, which could have been a thousand.
Or there was that one Bulls punt that traveled … 2 yards. I think it went off the side of the hoof. Or late in the first half, when USF was penalized on a Miami kickoff for “failure to wear required equipment” after two players, fullback Ryan Eppes and defensive back Nate Godwin, who both wear No. 36, were on the field at the same time. This season has been that kind of disaster.
And there is no rest for the woozy. Next Saturday, right back here, is the long-awaited American Athletic Conference opener against Cincinnati. The game will be shown on ESPN3, presumably because there is no ESPN4.
At the moment, it’s easy to wonder if USF and its head coach have the required equipment.
Taggart hears the noise.
“We’re 0-3, I expect that,” he said during the week. “No one should be happy.”
Now it’s 0-4.
OK, Bucs, have at it.