Bulls Look to Improve their Turnover Margin

The SportsExchange's gives its inside slant on USF heading into game four against FAU. Scouting Reports, Keys to the Game, Players to Watch, Fast Facts, Injury Report, and more.

Turnover margin has taken on a disturbing trend for USF through the first three games.

For the season, the Bulls have gained five turnovers, all on interceptions, and have given up the football eight times in their three games.

That isn't good, but the last two games have been worse.

"The turnover battle bothers me right now," Coach Skip Holtz said as the Bulls prepared to host Florida Atlantic. "That is a huge emphasis as a team.

"We're minus-five in the last two games. We've had six and we've only created one in the last two games. When you look at it from that standpoint, it's alarming."

The Bulls turned the ball over four times on interceptions and once on a fumble in the loss to Florida. Against Western Kentucky, they turned it over once on an interception but came up with a pick of their own.

"We have had plenty of opportunities," Holtz said. "We've had our hands on balls. We've had opportunities to make interceptions. We just haven't been able to come down with them."

It's the same with fumble recovery opportunities.

"It seems like the ball has been on the ground four or five times," Holtz said, "and we haven't been able to come up with it."

As for solving the problem, there's not a whole lot that can be done.

"We just have to keep emphasizing it," Holtz said. "It's not a concern right now to where it's lions-and-tigers-and-bears-oh-my type situation, but it's something we have to keep emphasizing and stick with.

"Minus-five in two games, you're not going to win many of those football games."

NOTES, QUOTES

--USF is 10-3 in games against teams from the state of Florida with two of the losses to Miami and one to Florida. The Bulls are a combined 10-0 against Florida Atlantic, Florida A&M, FIU, Florida State, and UCF.

--The Bulls will have one more non-conference game after playing Florida Atlantic, but it won't come until late November. After a string of six consecutive Big East games, the Bulls play at Miami on Nov. 27.

--USF is holding opponents to just 170.0 yards per game through the air, which is third in the Big East. The Bulls led the conference in pass defense last year (186.3).

SERIES HISTORY: USF leads Florida Atlantic, 2-0 (last meeting, 2007, 35-23 USF).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Bulls turned into a running team against Western Kentucky, throwing only 11 times. Sophomore RB Demetris Murray led the way with 115 yards on 15 carries and senior Mo Plancher added 79 on 17 runs. For the season, the Bulls are rushing for 216.7 yards a game. Injuries have razed the receiving corps, leaving sophomore WR Evan Landi, who spent last year backing up QB B.J. Daniels, as the top receiver with eight receptions.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Bulls are giving up 160 yards on the ground but only 170 through the air, which ranks in the top fourth of the country. Sack production is down but should pick up as redshirt freshman DE Ryne Giddins, injured in fall camp, begins to learn his way. The Bulls have only three for the season, but have five interceptions.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was the smart way to play it. It was the safe way to play it. And it was what I felt was the best way to play the game. But we can't take that approach going into every single game." -- Coach Skip Holtz, on the emphasis on the running game (only 11 pass attempts) in the win over an overmatched Western Kentucky team.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Florida Atlantic at USF, Oct. 2 -- The Bulls take on a second consecutive team from the Sun Belt when they host the Owls. The Owls fell to 1-2 on the season with losses to Michigan State and North Texas in their last two games. They opened with a win over UAB, which took Tennessee to overtime before losing in Knoxville in its last game.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Continue to get production from the running backs. FAU is the worst team statistically in the country against the rush, giving up 275.7 yards a game on the ground. USF cornerbacks will face a challenge from 6-foot-3 WR Lester Jean, who has 22 catches in three games.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

RB Demetris Murray -- Murray had only 14 carries for 77 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2009 but exceeded those totals with 15 carries for 115 yards in his last game. He is the Bulls' leading rusher with 232 yards on the season and ranks fifth in the Big East with his 77.3 rushing yards per game average.

SS Jon Lejiste -- Lejiste is the leader in the secondary. He has two tackles for loss among his 10 stops and has forced two fumbles and broken up two passes.

LB DeDe Lattimore -- The redshirt freshman is second on the team in tackles with 14, but he leads the Bulls with 11 solo stops. Lattimore earned the starting job with his play in the spring.

ROSTER REPORT:

--WR Dontavia Bogan (ankle), who sat out the win over Western Kentucky, is expected to play against Florida Atlantic.

--WR Sterling Griffin (ankle) has a chance to return this week, coach Skip Holtz said. He has yet to play this season after being injured in the summer.

--PK Eric Schwartz, who won the position in the spring, faces competition from PK Maikon Bonani for the field goal job, but Bonani is hampered by a slight hip strain.


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