Since arriving to Tampa in January of 2013, Willie Taggart has made it known that the ultimate goal for his Bulls program is capturing an American Athletic Conference championship.
Saturday night will prove whether this year’s Bulls are worthy of that distinction as USF (2-3, 0-1) will host conference leading #19 East Carolina (4-1, 1-0) for their Homecoming game.
In a season where the conference as a whole has put up disappointing results against non-conference foes, ECU has served as the proverbial flag bearers, being the only AAC team ranked in the top 25. And they’ve certainly made a lot of noise over the course of the early season.
After playing South Carolina close in a losing effort, the Pirates pulled off an impressive road upset over then #17 Virginia Tech, the same Hokie squad that had knocked off Ohio State a week prior. It was then ECU’s 70-41 demolishing of North Carolina that gained the Pirates national recognition and leaderboard status in the wide open AAC.
Saying that the Pirates like to air the ball out would be an understatement. ECU is currently ranked 4th in the nation in passing yards per game while averaging 43.6 points in each contest, landing them 9th in the country. A lot of pressure will be on Ron Cooper’s DB unit to limit the yards this offense can produce.
This will start with disrupting the play of QB Shane Carden, who through five contests, have put up stellar numbers, throwing for 15 TDs on 1,879 yards and boasts a 64.8 completion percentage. His go to receiver, Justin Hardy, averages 12.9 YPC and boasts 5 TDs with 479 yards on 37 receptions.
On the flip side, ECU has given up an average of 25.2 points per game, so Mike White and the USF offense must get out the gate early and put points on the board to keep up with the opposing Pirate offense.
There’s a likely possibility that the Bulls will have to involve themselves in a shootout in order to produce a victory under the lights in front of a rowdy Homecoming crowd.