TAMPA — When the University of South Florida Bulls (2-9, 2-5 American Athletic Conference) travel to Rutgers (5-6, 2-5) for Saturday night’s regular-season finale, the kickoff temperature could be at sub-freezing level.
USF coach Willie Taggart won’t acknowledge that.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about when you’re talking about cold,’’ Taggart said in response to a reporter’s question during Monday’s AAC teleconference. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. We’re playing a football game … and that’s all that matters. We’re Floridians. We talk about heat down here, baby.’’
USF is 1-4 all-time in games at 38 degrees or below at kickoff. The program’s coldest game was 29 degrees at West Virginia, which defeated USF 13-7 on Dec. 6, 2008.
STILL SUSPENDED: Senior safeties Mark Joyce and JaQuez Jenkins, who didn’t play in Friday night’s 23-20 loss at Central Florida, were “suspended indefinitely’’ for a violation of team rules, Taggart said. He gave no indication whether they would play at Rutgers, but might have a clarification on their status Tuesday.
In the absence of that experience, true freshman Hassan Childs was inserted into the starting lineup. In fact, at one point, the USF secondary featured an all-freshman look with Childs, Nate Godwin, Johnny Ward and Lamar Robbins.
“(True freshmen getting experience) is going to be huge,’’ Taggart said. “There’s not going to be a lot of new training. Now these guys have a whole offseason to get themselves in a position to be a better football player.
“It’s great for them to step in and not miss a beat. We probably played by far our best defense of the season (limiting UCF to 296 yards and forcing five turnovers). For those guys to step in and play lights-out, it showed you some of the improvements we have been making.’’
BULLS BITS: Taggart said junior LB Hans Louis suffered a season-ending torn ACL at UCF. …USF’s defense has improved to 21st nationally in the Football Bowl Subdivision, but its offense is 121st. ...This could be USF’s final trip to Rutgers, which will join the Big Ten Conference next season. After a 45-31 Big East win in 2005, the Bulls have dropped three straight games at Rutgers. …USF is trying to avoid the worst season in the program’s 17-season history. Even with a victory, the Bulls will tie their worst finish, 3-9 last season.