A look at tonight's game between USF and Rutgers at Raymond James Stadium.
RUTGERS AT SOUTH FLORIDA
Records: Rutgers – 2-0; USF – 2-0
Where/when: Raymond James Stadium, 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: ESPN/98.7 FM, 1010 (Spanish)
Internet: WatchESPN.com or radio broadcast at GoUSFBulls.com
KEY TO VICTORY
REDUCE PENALTIES: Through two games, USF has been penalized 20 times for 171 yards. Six of those flags produced first downs for the opponents. Those numbers are too high. Whether it’s poor technique or eagerness to make a play, that lack of discipline eventually will catch up to USF.
GO DEEP: The vertical passing game was a priority throughout training camp. The Bulls had three touchdown passes of 50-plus yards against Nevada. There were only two successful 50-plus-yard passes all of last season, and one was a screen play. Senior QB B.J. Daniels seems like he’s on to something. Why stop now? Daniels has speedy receivers who can go up and get the ball.
TIGHTEN UP: USF’s defense can’t be proud of allowing 549 total yards, even in a victory. Especially egregious were the 228 yards gained by Nevada in the first quarter alone. The defense was eventually bailed out, but some concerns linger. Now it must prove those numbers were an anomaly and not the start of a trend, particularly while facing formidable Rutgers RB Jawan Jamison, who has three straight 100-yard games dating to last season.
FOR STARTERS: You can’t overemphasize the importance of tonight’s game for both teams. It might be especially vital for the Bulls, who are 3-4 all-time in Big East Conference openers. The Bulls go on the road for their next two league games (Oct. 6 at Temple, Oct. 20 at Louisville), so 1-0 sounds a lot better than 0-1. Since USF joined the Big East in 2005, only one team began 0-1 in the league and went on to claim the conference’s BCS bowl bid — Connecticut in 2010.
WORN OUT: Going to Nevada and back, arriving home at 3 a.m., then turning around on a short week for the Big East opener? Bulls coach Skip Holtz said, "we’re a tired football team.’’ Offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said this week’s preparation has been "one of the most challenging things I’ve been through in coaching.’’ Senior QB B.J. Daniels said after a physical game at Nevada, the Bulls were "trying to get rid of the soreness. A lot of us feel like we just got out of a car accident.’’ By tonight, USF must find its second gear.
DEFINING MOMENT? You could argue that Nevada lost it more than USF won it. After all, the Wolf Pack lost two fumbles in the red zone. They went ultra-conservative and couldn’t close out an 11-point lead with under three minutes to play. But USF made enough plays to win a close game, something that didn’t happen last season with five losses by a combined 18 points. Looking back on this season, if it plays out positively, the trip to Nevada could be the moment when USF football truly began to believe in itself.
Rutgers senior LB Khaseem Greene vs. USF running game
The Bulls, paced by seniors Lindsey Lamar (85 yards) and Demetris Murray (60), were much better on the ground against Nevada. But Rutgers has a formidable defense and it begins with Greene (6-foot-1, 230 pounds), who was last season’s Big East Conference co-defensive player of the year. Greene, with 24 tackles through two games, was No. 1 on ESPN.com’s preseason list of the Big East’s top 25 players.
Q&A WITH SENIOR USF TE EVAN LANDI
Q: So you were a hockey player?
A: I was. Pretty unusual for a kid from South Florida (Coral Springs). They offered me a spot in the Ontario Hockey League (Canadian juniors), but I guess my football dream was bigger than my hockey dream. There was a time when I dreamed about playing in the NHL.
Q: You came to USF as a quarterback. Was it difficult to switch?
A: Sometimes, your path changes. We had B.J. (Daniels) and that was pretty clear. … Things have changed a lot for me, particularly when I started playing tight end and I got in the trenches.
Q: What are your future plans?
A: I want to be a college football coach. I’d like to grab a graduate assistant job somewhere, then work my way up through the ranks, become an assistant coach and go from there. Football has been my life. I’ve had a lot of coaches who have had a major impact on my life. I’d like to do that for another athlete.
Q: What was your favorite class At USF?
A: Introduction to Psychology. It didn’t pertain to my major, but I learned a lot about all the different ways people analyze things and how to read body language.
Q: Who’s the most impressive person you’ve ever met?
A: My sister, Justine. She went to Louisville, played volleyball and got three Big East title rings. Her goal was set on becoming a doctor, going to med school. She took two years off and played pro volleyball overseas. She just got accepted into Louisville’s med school. For her to obtain all the goals she set for herself, it taught me never to get complacent or relaxed. I look up to her.
JOEY JOHNSTON’S PICK: USF 24, RUTGERS 23
Despite a short week, the Bulls find a way to start fast in the Big East Conference race. Rutgers leads the series 5-2, but four of the games were decided by a total of eight points. It’s another breathless finish for the Bulls and Scarlet Knights.