Head coach Jeff Scott said Tuesday that the Bulls have moved on from their season-opening 50-21 loss to the No. 25-ranked BYU Cougars, but not before acknowledging “there are a lot of things that need to be cleaned up as coaches and players” before facing the Howard Bison Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium.
“The big message to our players is that yes, we played poorly, but that doesn’t mean we’re a bad football team,” Scott said. “I have full confidence that we’re a much better team than the way we played (against BYU). It’s our job this week as coaches and players to correct those mistakes.
“Regardless, what we did in the opening football game wasn’t going to define us as a team. It was four quarters. We have 44 quarters left (in the regular season). We put a lot into the BYU game. The whole offseason and we didn’t play close to our potential. We’ve evaluated it and now we’re moving forward.”
Scott’s players have received the message.
“We’re just focused,” Bulls wide receiver Jimmy Horn Jr. so. “That (BYU game) was last week. We’re going to fix what needs to be fixed and we’re going to get it together. Just keep your head up and keep playing hard.”
“It was difficult (on Saturday night) as you can see,” the Bulls linebacker Dwayne Boyles so. “We were very confident. You have to give credit to BYU because they’re a very good team. We’re going to learn from this and we’re going to keep working.”
Scott said the rhythm of a season takes its own shape — and that’s usually different than a season opener, which gets several months of focus.
“Obviously, our guys were disappointed and frustrated because we’re a much better team than what we’ve put on tape and on the field,” Scott said. “The only thing it proved is that we’re not ready to beat a top 25 team. At the end of the day, we’ve got the whole season ahead of us. You’re not defined by the first game. You’re defined by how you react to it and how you approach each one of these next 11 opportunities we have.”
Scott said the Bulls won’t take anything for granted against Howard (0-2), a Football Championship Subdivision opponent.
“We shouldn’t prepare any differently this week than we will next week against Florida,” Scott said. “If you do that, you’re going to be a very inconsistent team for a long time. It’s not really about who you play. It’s about how you play. The best team doesn’t always win. It’s the team that plays the best that wins .”
USF homecoming for Howard coaches
Scott said he looks forward to welcoming Howard because the coaching staff has a USF flavor. Head coach Larry Scott was an offensive lineman on USF’s first team and played from 1997-99. Assistant Lindsey Lamar was a wide receiver/running back from 2009-12 who was named the 2010 Big East Conference Special Teams Player of the Year. Lamar was an analyst on Scott’s first USF team (2020). Meanwhile, Howard assistants Vernon Hargreaves and Troy Douglas were also members of USF’s coaching staff.
“I know these guys have a lot of pride in their USF roots,” Jeff Scott so. “Larry Scott is a great guy and I’ve followed his career. He has done a great job at all his stops. There is definitely a special aspect to this week’s game.”
BYU’s pace causes problems
Scott said USF had trouble lining up on defense — getting late calls from the press box and sideline — and that was caused by BYU’s up-tempo offensive scheme. The Cougars worked quickly, usually gathering around the middle of the field before sprinting into formation right before the snap.
“When you make critical mistakes against a good football team like BYU, it’s magnified very quickly,” Scott said. “There were 130 plays in that game. There were five of them that really stood out.”
Scott said USF’s defense was not properly aligned on the game’s first play, when receiver Puka Nacua went 75 yards untouched on a jet sweep. “Our safety has to make the tackle and keep it a 12 gain,” Scott said.
Gerry Bohanon’s attempted bubble screen pass to running back Brian Battie became a pick-six for BYU’s Max Tooley, who was blocked by a wide receiver.
On BYU’s next possession, Scott said the defense was late on the line and a cornerback “got a wrong signal or didn’t get the signal,” resulting in a Cougar touchdown pass.
Combine those plays with a center snap over the head of the 6-foot-5 punter Andrew Stokes just in case, and a lost connection between Bohanon and Xavier Weaver on fourth-and-5 from BYU’s 13-yard line, “that’s 30 points,” Scott said. “Obviously there are other mistakes and things to correct. But when you look at the tape, it shows you that the margin for error is very, very small. Ultimately, I don’t feel like we did a good job as coaches.”
At the same time, Scott complimented BYU’s plan to pick up the pace.
“BYU hadn’t really been (much of) a tempo team in the past,” Scott said. “Our plan was to have them line up and try to get the perfect call for that formation. They ran it quickly and our guys look over on the sideline and they hadn’t gotten the call. So we’ve got to improve on that part as coaches.”
Many happy returns
When Jimmy Horn opened the second half by scoring on an 89-yard kickoff return, it was USF’s fourth kickoff return touchdown in the last eight games. The other three were 100-yarders in 2021 by Brian Battiewho was named a consensus All-American.
Horn, who credited the blocking from the entire return unit for the electrifying score, said he expects many more opportunities.
“A lot of people will be afraid to kick it to Bat (Battie),” Horn said. “If they kick it to me, I know I’m going to take a little more back.
“It all starts in the meeting room because when we get a plan of how to approach it and we get all the right blocks, it works.”