TAMPA — Without an opponent to prepare for this week, University of South Florida coach Willie Taggart is ready to focus on his team.
The Bulls have an open date before hosting Miami on Sept. 28 at Raymond James Stadium.
“I don’t have any concerns about Miami,” Taggart said. “It’s about USF football. It’s about us getting better and seeing how good we can be. … I do know that if we play like we’re capable of playing, we can play with anyone in the country. If we don’t play like we’re capable of playing, we can lose to anyone in the country. We’ve shown that.”
Taggart hopes his team can move past its 0-3 start and stay positive during the break between games.
“I don’t want them to talk about anything negative,” he said. “We do have some good things going on in our program with our football team, and we can’t not look at those things because we’re 0-3. We’ve got to build off of those things.
“Our defense is 23rd in the country in total defense. … Marcus Shaw is sixth in the country in rushing. We’re doing some good things. We’ve got to add some more good things to those.”
BRINGING BENCH ALONG: Taggart said watching QB Steven Bench in Saturday’s loss to FAU, it was clear Bench wasn’t completely in synch with the rest of the offense.
Bench was 8-for-23 for 138 yards and a touchdown in his first significant playing time since his summer transfer from Penn State. He also threw an interception and lost a fumble.
“I think we can help Steven a little better by not asking him to do too much,” Taggart said. “Steven can help himself out by making sure he knows exactly what we’re doing.
“You can watch that game and tell he didn’t know a lot of times and he held on to it. The times he did know, he made some good throws. … He doesn’t have to know our entire offense, he just has to know the game plan inside and out.”
Vols will have their hands full
GAINESVILLE — First-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones confesses the Vols “are not a very mentally tough football team’’ after the worst loss in more than 100 years, 59-14 at Oregon.
That toughness gets tested again at 3:30 p.m. Saturday when the Vols visit Florida, which has won the past eight meetings between the schools.
The 45-point defeat in Eugene was the largest for Tennessee since a 48-0 loss to Mississippi A&M (now Mississippi State) in 1910.
“When you go on the road, you have to have a road focus about yourself,’’ Jones said. “I thought that the game became fast, we suffered some adversity, and we had some individuals make some uncharacteristic mistakes and mental errors. To go on the road and play in these types of environments against some quality opponents, not only Oregon but as we continue to progress and move forward throughout the season, our mental toughness and mental conditioning has to take monumental steps forward.’’
Jones realizes after getting steamrolled in Oregon, the Florida visit isn’t ideal — and it could be ugly if the tide doesn’t turn.
“This week our whole mental focus, our mental conditioning, if you said what’s the biggest area of improvement, it’s becoming a much more mentally tough football team,’’ Jones said. “Proving that you can go on the road and handle all the distractions that it takes in preparation before the game, but also on game day as well.’’
David Jones, Florida Today
Miami QB Dewey giving up football
CORAL GABLES — Miami QB Preston Dewey said he is no longer able to play because of a back injury.
Dewey signed with Miami in February 2012 and never threw a pass for the Hurricanes. Dewey met with doctors in Miami and his native Texas to discuss his injury, and he will have surgery in December.
Dewey will remain at Miami to complete his education, and the school will honor his scholarship.
The Associated Press