USF looking for first Big East win at UCONN

USF resumes play this week against the 2010 league champion UConn on Saturday. Check out the rundown and see what's been looking good, what still needs work, keys to the game, roster report, who to keep an eye on and more.

INSIDE SLANT

South Florida will be looking to avoid a 0-2 start in Big East Conference play when it visits Connecticut, which, obviously, would put the Bulls in a tough spot as far as the conference race is concerned.

It pretty much would mean the Bulls would have to win out to get a share of their first conference championship.

But it's too early for such speculation now, says USF coach Skip Holtz.

"I think right now it's still awfully early," Holtz said. "It's still awfully early. We've just got to continue to focus on us right now.

"When we start getting down with maybe two games left in the league or something, then you start talk about controlling your own destiny.

"Right now we just have to focus on what we're doing."

Speaking of controlling destiny, the Bulls got an assist in that department when Rutgers pounded Pittsburgh, which had blistered the Bulls in their conference opener in their last appearance.

That left the Panthers 1-1 in the conference.

Rutgers is off to a 2-0 start, and West Virginia is 1-0 in the Big East. USF is in the mix with UConn and Syracuse at 0-1.

But as Holtz said, it is early. In fact, two teams, Cincinnati and Louisville, have yet to play a conference game.

After the trip to Connecticut, the Bulls will get back home, but for only a short stay. They will host Cincinnati on Oct. 22, then have a second bye week before going on the road to Rutgers and Syracuse to start November.

NOTES, QUOTES

--USF is off to a 1-1 start in road games. In 15 seasons, the Bulls have finished with a winning record in true road games four times, the last just last year when they were 3-2. They also have had .500 records on the road in four other seasons.

--Junior QB B.J. Daniels, who rushed for a team-best 772 yards as a freshman in 2009, is back to his running ways. He is second on the team in rushing with 258 yards, only one yard short of his total for the 12 games he played in 2010.

--USF coach Skip Holtz was 34-23 in five years as head coach at Connecticut back in the mid-1990s, long before the Huskies joined the Big East. "It'll be neat to go up there," Holtz said. "I haven't seen the stadium since they built it." Earlier this season, Holtz enjoyed a return to Notre Dame, where he played as a walkon under his dad, Lou Holtz, and also coached.

SERIES HISTORY: The USF-Connecticut series is tied 4-4 (last meeting, 2010, UConn 19-16).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: QB B.J. Daniels has made the biggest difference in USF's offense by not throwing the game-turning interception. He has only thrown only one in his 160 pass attempts. WR Sterling Griffin has the ability to stretch defenses and has given the receiving game a big boost. RBs Darrell Scott and Demetris Murray are combining for just under 135 yards a game rushing. Along with Daniels, who runs for just under 52 yards a game, they help the Bulls lead the league in rushing (223.2 yards a game).

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: USF ranks only sixth in total defense, giving up 355.2 yards a game, and the Bulls are last in the league in rush defense, though they give up only 127 a game. They have 15 sacks with DEs Julius Forte and Claude Davis leading with three each. No other player has more than one. Seven different players have interceptions.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was a physical week and we got after it. But I feel like we made some progress." -- Coach Skip Holtz, on how the Bulls progressed during their bye week.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: USF at Connecticut, Oct. 15 -- The 2010 league champion UConn is struggling under first-year coach Paul Pasqualoni, dropping to 2-4 overall and 0-1 in the conference after its loss at West Virginia. But the Huskies trailed only 10-9 at halftime before giving up 33 unanswered points in the second half. UConn has the league's second-leading rusher in RB Lyle McCombs (95.8 yards per game).

KEYS TO THE GAME: Put the past behind them. The Bulls can't be thinking back to their big loss at Pittsburgh or they will lose for the second time. Offensively, they want to get their running game going, but that won't be easy against a UConn defense that is limiting opponents to under 75 yards a game rushing.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

RB Darrell Scott -- Scott has moved up to fifth among rushers in the Big East with his average of just under 85 yards a game. He can get the tough yards inside as well as break off a big run.

WR Sterling Griffin -- Griffin, who missed all of last year with an ankle injury, has given new life to USF's passing game. He has a team-best 27 catches for 357 yards, which puts him among the top five in the conference in both categories.

LB Michael Lanaris -- Lanaris leads the team in tackles with 40 and has a sack and an interception. The pick came at a crucial moment in the win over Notre Dame, so he knows how to step up for the big play.

ROSTER REPORT

--Freshman DT Elkino Watson leads USF in tackles for loss with 6.5, second in the nation among freshmen. He is tied for 37th overall in FBS statistics.

--Senior DE Patrick Hampton has started all five games for the Bulls but has only nine tackles, none for a loss. His backup, junior Anthony Hill, has only eight stops, but two of them have been for losses (one sack).

--Sophomore WR/PR Terrence Mitchell remains "very unlikely" to be available for the game at Connecticut following his recovery from a concussion. He is averaging 5.2 yards on 13 returns but has a 34-yarder. Junior WR Evan Landi took over the duty against Pittsburgh but is seen as mostly a "fair catch" option. He has lost four yards on one return.

--Sophomore DT Demi Thompson has a back problem and sophomore WR Derrick Hopkins turned an ankle in practice. Neither is expected to be available for the UConn game.

--Senior WR A.J. Love and senior CB Quenton Washington are back practicing and are expected to play against the Huskies.

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