When/Where: Friday November 20th at 8 p.m. ET- Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, FL)
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: USF-IMG Network (820 AM)/www.GoUSFBulls.com
All-time series: Cincinnati leads 8-4.
Last Meeting: Last Year. Bearcats won 34-17 in Cincy.
Senior Night- List of Seniors being honored: S Jamie Byrd (Dade City, FL), QB Steven Bench (Bainbridge, GA), DE Demetrius Hill (Kankakee, Illinois), TE Marlon Pope (Hattiesburg, MS), TE Sean Price (Citra, FL), LB C.J. Garye (Tallahassee, FL), TE Tye Turner (Hampton, GA), K Michael Hill (Tarpon Springs, FL), FB Corian Hamilton (Orlando, FL), P Mattias Ciabatti (Tampa, FL), LB Tashon Whitehurst (Gainesville, FL), DE Zack Bullock (Sebring, FL), OL Thor Jozwiak (Eagle Lake, FL), OL Clavion Nelson (Hollywood, FL), OL Brynjar Gudmundsson (Wellington, FL), OL Mak Djulbegovic (Tampa, FL), DT James Hamilton (Orlando, FL), DE Eric Lee (Daphne, AL), DT Daniel Awoleke (Lakeland, FL). Taggart on Seniors: “This senior group will always hold a special place with me just with what they’ve been through. They’ve been through a lot with different coaches, they haven’t won a lot here. They came here wanting to go bowling, wanting to win championships and hasn’t gone the way they wanted it to. I’m proud of them because they stuck it out. They started to believe in what was said to them and now they’re starting to reap benefits for it. They’re feeling good about themselves knowing that they helped lay the foundation to get the success here back at USF like it was before and they know they can be proud of that when they leave.”
-South Florida winners of five of last six contests.
-USF seeking to match record for most conference wins in a single season (5).
-Gulf Coast offense 15th in the nation in rushing at 227.9 ypg.
-Marlon Mack: Named National Performer of the Week by the College Football Performance Awards and AAC Offensive Player of the Week for 272 total yard outburst vs. Temple. Leads conference in rushing with 1,065 yards and 6 TDs. 09 yards of breaking USF single season record.
-Rodney Adams: TD in five of last six games. 1 TD and 160 receiving yards shy of setting USF single season receiving marks.
-Quinton Flowers: Passing- 60.4 completion pct., 1,676 yards, 14 TDs. Rushing- 747 yards, 8 TDs. Taggart when speaking to Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman on Flowers: “He’s the real deal. He’s an electrifying player who reminds me of Tommie Frazier in that he’s so savvy. You think you have him, and you don’t. Guys can come scot-free on a blitz and he’ll still be able to get out of it.”
-Bull Sharks climbing to 47th in FBS in Total Defense.
-Bearcats fourth in FBS in total offense averaging 585.6 ypg.
-74th in Total Defense.
-Coming off 49-38 shootout with Tulsa.
-QB Gunner Kiel: 163.4 QB rating, 2,423 yards, 18 TDs/8 INTs.
-WR Shaq Washington: Leads receivers with 795 yards and 5 TDs.
-S Zach Edwards: 74 tackles, 7 pass break-ups, 2 INTs, 1 forced fumble.
-LB Eric Wilson: Leads Bearcats in tackling with 95 tackles.
Everyone is still buzzing from USF’s 44-23 upset of then #23 Temple last Saturday, and rightfully so. It had been six years since the Bulls had knocked off a ranked opponent at home. With student support being manifested in turnout at Raymond James Stadium and national outlets such as SB Nation and Fox Sports taking note of USF’s resurgence, we are seeing a once dormant program being injected with life.
However, the Bulls must halt the celebration as there is indeed plenty of season left to play with so much on the line, particularly the AAC championship. It is easy for a young team like Willie Taggart’s to rest on their laurels, get caught in the moment, and lose focus after a signature victory, which makes a contest like Friday’s matchup vs. Cincinnati ripe for an emotional letdown. During his Wednesday press conference, Taggart emphasized the focus and approach his coaching staff instills week to week.
“Winning can beget softness. It can bring complacency,” Taggart said. “Each week we have to play paranoid, it can bring success to be playing that way.”
The Bulls will indeed have to be on high alert facing a Tommy Tuberville coached Bearcat club that knows how to beat them.
Under the stellar play of junior QB Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati brings an even more explosive offense than year’s past. Cincinnati ranks fourth in the entire country in total offense, racking up yards by the chunk with a variety of weapons in their spread set.
Despite this output however, Cincy sits at 6-4 and well out of the picture of defending their share of the AAC title, having already suffered three conference losses. Head coach Tommy Tuberville attributed the growing strength of the conference as the reasoning. “We’ve got as good a team as we had last year, but the conference is better.”
Coach Taggart, who suffered a 34-17 defeat in Nippert Stadium last year, is by no means taking them lightly and understands the challenge ahead.
“They’re a good football team. They score on everybody they play. The QB (Kiel) is phenomenal. They have some skilled, tall receivers that can go up and catch the ball and fast receivers that can stretch the field. It’s going to be a big challenge for our defense. It doesn’t get any easier.”
Defensively, the Bearcats pose threats that could give Flowers and company fits. Similar to the ball-hawking ability of USF’s own Jamie Byrd, safety Zach Edwards can fly towards the ball and has 74 tackles and 7 pass break-ups to show for it.
Keys to a USF victory:
This contest has the makings of a shootout for the Bulls, one where the offense needs to consistently exploit a subpar Bearcat defense and put up points early and often in a similar manner to which they scored on Temple last week.
Defensively, Tom Allen’s Bull Shark’s must close in space and shut down the numerous amount of weapons at Kiel’s disposal, including Mike Boone, Hosey Williams ,Tion Green, Shaq Waskington, and senior veteran and Tampa native Chris Moore. Applied pressure and safety blitzes from Byrd and Nate Godwin to flush Kiel out of the pocket will be key.