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Branches from Harbaugh tree intertwine Saturday

Eight autumns after they periodically matched wits as fellow Jim Harbaugh lieutenants at Stanford, USF's Willie Taggart and Syracuse's Scott Shafer meet again Saturday.

And Taggart, the Cardinal running backs coach in 2007, has a pretty good idea of what's coming from Harbaugh's former defensive coordinator.

“I expect them to blitz. I expect them to blitz and I expect them to blitz and I expect them to blitz some more," Taggart said Tuesday.

Such is the modus operandi of Shafer and Orange defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough, expected to harass Bulls sophomore QB Quinton Flowers from every direction. Led by junior ends Ron Thompson and Luke Arciniega (four sacks each), Syracuse ranks 24th nationally with 2.75 sacks a game.

"You’ve got to be sound in your protection and in your run scheme, and making sure you get a hat on a hat with some of the blitzes that they do," Taggart said.

PROMOTION FOR 'PICK-SIX': Freshman CB Ronnie Hoggins, who totaled five tackles and a pass breakup in his first career start Friday against Memphis, remains No. 1 on the depth chart this week. His backup, veteran Johnny Ward, missed one game with a hip pointer but played against the Tigers.

"There's not a day that he's been here that he didn't make a play," Taggart said. "We call him 'Pick-Six,' because he did it in high school and came here and started doing it in practice, and he almost had one the other day (in the second half against Memphis), which would've been big. But he's always around the ball."

'CUSE QB RETURNS: Shafer said on his weekly Cuse.com video Monday that freshman Eric Dungey, the second of three starting quarterbacks already used by the Orange this season, is "ready to go" after taking a shot to the head in a Sept. 19 victory against Central Michigan. In three games (two starts), Dungey, atop this week's depth chart, is 21-for-36 for 428 yards, five TDs and no interceptions.

ODDS AND ENDS: Neither USF nor Syracuse have lost a fumble this season. ... Upon reviewing the Memphis tape, Taggart said the defensive line particularly was "outstanding. I thought we put a lot of pressure on Paxton Lynch and that affected him a little bit." ... The Bulls will try to snap a five-game homecoming losing streak Saturday. In the 2012 homecoming encounter with Syracuse, the Orange scored on a 1-yard TD pass with three seconds remaining to rally for a 37-36 victory. ... Dave Ryan (play-by-play), Corey Chavous (analysis) and Lauren Gardner (sideline) will call Saturday's game for CBS Sports Network. ... Sophomore TB Marlon Mack is 66 rushing yards shy of 1,500 for his career. ... After spending the 2014 season primarily as a nickel back, sophomore Devin Abraham (13 tackles, one INT) said he feels more comfortable at his natural free safety spot. "Moving back at safety is more of a home feeling," he said.

AUDIBLE: “I don’t know where we all get that we’re just going to sling the ball, just throw it all around. We never said we were going to be that kind of football team. We’re playing to the strength of our football team, and that’s our running backs, and we’re going to run the football. We’ve said that from Day 1 that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to run it and we’re going to throw it off the run." -- Taggart

AUDIBLE II: "The way we look at it, we think we’ll be playing that team again (in the American Athletic Conference championship game). We’re going to correct some things and see to it that that happens.” -- Taggart, referring to Memphis

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Taggart: Offense "not far" from turning corner

A month into the season, the sleek, power-based offense Willie Taggart promoted as "fast" and "exciting" hasn't lived up to the latter adjective.

But entering Saturday's homecoming game against Syracuse, the Bulls coach is neither conceding -- nor overhauling -- anything.

"Obviously we haven't provided that (fun and excitement) if you watch what we're doing," Taggart said on Monday's American Athletic Conference coaches teleconference. "But I don't think we're far from doing it."

Taggart's conservative approach in the second half of Friday's 24-17 loss at Memphis -- in which USF found the red zone only once -- elicited periodic choruses of boos from the Raymond James Stadium crowd of 14,305. Receivers and tight ends were targeted downfield only six times in the first three quarters, and even Taggart assumed blame for not calling more plays to loosen up Memphis' defense after halftime.

But the Bulls will remain a run-first team, he said Monday. …

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Full disclosure: My latest AP ballot

As long as the college football world order remains on spin cycle each week, you'll find the same schizophrenia on most ballots, incluing mine.

For the third time in four weeks, I have a new No. 1, though none of those three have lost.

At this point of this dizzying autumn, I suppose teams ought to be rewarded for staying unbeaten, and normally I hate penalizing teams for winning. But I can't in good conscience keep Michigan State atop the ballot after it squeaked by 1-4 Purdue at home (and lost another offensive tackle in the process). Similarly, Ohio State's certainly not leapfrogging the Spartans after escaping that daunting college football snakepit known as Bloomington, Ind.

So here's your chance, TCU.

Elsewhere, Florida played like a top-10 squad Saturday night, and is being rewarded as such on my ballot. FSU's out of my top 10 for the same reason Ohio State is now No. 3: The 'Noles simply haven't looked sharp all year.

Exiting the ballot are Wisconsin and Mississippi State. Climbing aboard are Iowa and Memphis. I didn't upgrade the Tigers for winning Friday in such a hostile environment (actual attendance: 14,305), but because their victory against Cincinnati looks a bit more impressive today.

1. TCU
2. Michigan State
3. Ohio State
4. Baylor
5. Alabama
6. LSU
7. Clemson
8. Utah
9. Florida
10. Oklahoma
11. FSU
12. Texas A&M
13. Northwestern
14. Stanford
15. Notre Dame
16. UCLA
17. Ole Miss
18. USC
19. Oklahoma State
20. Michigan
21. California
22. Georgia
23. Iowa
24. Memphis
25. Temple

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Bulls have witnessed Lynch's evolution

Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch enters Friday's game at USF as a darkhorse Heisman candidate.

AP Photo

Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch enters Friday's game at USF as a darkhorse Heisman candidate.

He came into Raymond James Stadium two Novembers ago as a raw and mostly unproven redshirt freshman, a collegiate novice only slightly greener than most of those surrounding him.

Friday night, Memphis junior QB Paxton Lynch returns as a darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate.

"I heard (Cincinnati) Coach (Tommy) Tuberville say last week he's one of the best quarterbacks in the country that he's seen," Bulls coach Willie Taggart said earlier this week. "And I agree."

A 6-foot-7 right-hander from Deltona, Lynch's stock -- and that of his team -- has reached virtually an unprecedented stratosphere. He has established a career-high for passing yardage in each of his last three games, and enters Friday's contest against USF ranked fifth nationally in pass efficiency (83-for-113, 1,230 yards, eight TDs).

His next interception will be his first of 2015.

"Everything he does, it's like he's already seen it, he already ran the play in his head, and there's no...holding the ball," Taggart said. "It's coming out now. And if he doesn't have it, he's athletic enough to run and get the first down or touchdown for you. ... I'm sure he could just go out and call the plays; he knows it that well."

That type of instinctiveness and seasoning was borne of trial and tribulation, as indicated in this story. Lynch, who has started every game for Memphis since the beginning of the 2013 season, has grown with most of the players around him.

Four of his five starting offensive linemen are seniors; as are two starting receivers and the starting tight end. Their early calamities (i.e. a 17-15 loss to Middle Tennessee in 2013) have been supplanted by continuity and clairvoyance.

"Were there times when I thought about giving him a little break his freshman year? Yeah sure, there were," said Memphis coach Justin Fuente, whose team went 3-9 in '13. "But we really felt like, between the guys around him playing better and him continuing to improve, that we were getting a lot out of it."

The perseverance was validated last fall. Lynch established a Memphis record for total yardage (3,352) and completed better than 70 percent of his passes in six games, highlighted by a then-career-best 78.3 percent (18-for-23, 232 yards) in a 31-20 win against USF.

The five sacks he has taken this season are only one fewer that the amount he sustained in that loss to Middle Tennessee two Septembers ago.

"I think all those things he didn't have his first year...you see it now," Taggart said.

"He can process everything; he's great at faking. You take that for granted, but he's great at selling the fake, and they're a huge play-action team. Throwing the ball on time, he can make all the throws, make the deep-ball throws. And then running with his feet -- when he doesn't have it, he goes. He doesn't hold the ball long at all. He gets rid of it or he's gone."

Friday marks Lynch's second consecutive non-Saturday game, which means another chance to showcase himself before a national TV audience. The Bulls' objective: pressure Lynch, confuse him into tentativeness, create takeaways. If all else fails, hope his pregame meal doesn't agree with him.

Otherwise, the Heisman whispers become more audible.

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'Eye discipline' all the buzz in Bulls camp

By the time USF kicks off Friday night against Memphis, "eye discipline" likely will have evolved from catchphrase to cliche within the Bulls circle.

The four-syllable term has reverberated across the Morsani Practice Complex this week as the Bulls defense prepares for a Memphis attack that specializes in confusion. The Tigers, eighth nationally in total offense (570.3 ypg), likely will show assorted shifts and formations Bulls defensive coordinator Tom Allen collectively refers to as "eye candy."

"They're obviously the best offense we've played so far," Allen said.

"We've talked to our guys from Day One about eye discipline, and you can't say that enough. ... That's the key, and tackling extremely well. They get you in space, they isolate you, and then their athletes make you miss."

CAN HE GO 3-0? The first touchdown Memphis scores Friday will be its first against an Allen-coached unit in the last five seasons.

As assistant head coach at Arkansas State in 2011, the Red Wolves trounced Memphis 47-3. Last season, as Ole Miss linebackers coach, Allen watched the Rebels hold the Tigers to a season-low 104 yards in a 24-3 Rebels triumph.

But the Tigers are 12-1 since that loss in Oxford last September. "They've always had some good athletes, but not like this," Allen said.

"And there's so much depth to 'em too. ... They've got some bigger (running backs) and some smaller ones, but they're all very effective. And all the receivers, there's not a guy you say, 'Hey, we've got to take this one guy away,' because somebody else will step up and has the ability to beat you."

ODDS AND ENDS: USF is 2-0 in American Athletic Conference openers under Taggart. ... Allen said CB Johnny Ward, who had been nursing a hip pointer, will play Friday. "This is the first time we've been at full strength on defense," Allen said. ... Entering October, the Bulls still have neither lost a fumble nor recovered one this season. "We have a standard we try to uphold and that's at least three takeaways every day at practice, and we always strive for more than that," senior DE Eric Lee said. "So takeaways is obviously a point, a factor, that we need to make sure that we press." ... Despite averaging 53.8 points so far, the Tigers offense hasn't exactly sprinted out of the gate. In its four opening possessions this season, it has punted once and fumbled twice.

AUDIBLE: "I thought this was one of the most complete practices we've had. Not letting external things affect us as far as the weather...we didn't let that affect us one bit. We came out here and practiced hard from the very first whistle and we finished strong." -- Bulls senior C Brynjar Gudmundsson, whose team worked out in steady rain Sunday and Tuesday

AUDIBLE II: "Going back there, it's exciting because my high school coaches had a lot to do with me being able to play college ball. So it's kind of a token back to them, to show them my hard work." -- Memphis DE (and Gaither High alumnus) Ernest Suttles, speaking to the Memphis Commercial Appeal

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Know the Foe: Memphis

Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch has an American Athletic Conference-best 188.2 pass-efficiency rating.


Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch has an American Athletic Conference-best 188.2 pass-efficiency rating.

A look at Memphis, which comes Friday to Raymond James Stadium

Nickname: Tigers

Record: 4-0 (Defeated Missouri State, 63-7; Kansas, 55-23; Bowling Green, 44-41; Cincinnati, 53-46)

Coach: Justin Fuente (fourth season, 21-20)

The breakdown: Memphis, 5-31 in the three years prior to Fuente's arrival, has won 11 in a row dating to last season. To this point, only Baylor (64.0 ppg) and Ole Miss (54.8) are scoring more than the Tigers (53.8), whose starting offense features seven seniors and two juniors. Sixteen of Memphis' 23 big plays (20 or more yards) have come in the passing game, where 6-foot-7 redshirt junior Paxton Lynch (83-for-113, 1,230 yards, eight TDs, no INTs) is emerging as a fringe Heisman candidate. Nine Tigers have at least five receptions, compared to only four for USF. Defensively, Memphis lost eight starters and defensive coordinator Barry Odom from last season's team, and it shows. The Tigers rank 103rd nationally in total defense (453.8 ypg) after surrendering 752 against Cincinnati, but have come up with a clutch play in the waning moments
(pass breakup, interception) in each of their last two games.

Odds and ends: Memphis ranks 21st nationally in third-down efficiency (48.1 percent); USF is 124th (27.9). ... Three former Hillsborough County prep standouts -- RB Robert Davis (Carrollwood Day), RB Darius Lee (Brandon) and DE Ernest Suttles (Gaither) -- play for Memphis. Suttles is listed as a starter this week. ... P Spencer Smith is averaging an AAC-best 49.9 yards per attempt, nearly 4 more than USF's Mattias Ciabatti. ... Memphis has won nine of its last 10 games played in NFL stadiums.

Taggart's take: "Paxton Lynch, he went through some (growing pains) as a freshman, but each and every year, you watch the kid get better, and now he's just flawless. Everything he does, it's like he's already seen it, he already ran the play in his head, and there's no...holding the ball. It's coming out now. And if he doesn't have it, he's athletic enough to run and get the first down or touchdown for you. ... I'm sure he could just go out and call the plays; he knows it that well."

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Godwin: USF defense 'built for games like this'

While watching Memphis amass 570 yards on 73 plays in Thursday night's 53-46 victory against Cincinnati, Bulls junior SS Nate Godwin never grimaced.

To the contrary, he grinned.

"I smiled," the Freedom High alumnus said, "because we're built for games like this."

USF's 4-2-5 alignment, installed by new coordinator Tom Allen specifically to neutralize spread-style offenses, gets arguably its most stringent test to date Friday against the Tigers. The Bulls have yet to face a wholesale spread system, but have been victimized by missed tackles, miscommunication and a lack of discipline to this point.

So why does Godwin, whose unit ranks 45th nationally (344.7 ypg) feel like the Bulls match up favorably?

"We run a 4-2-5, we've got five (defensive backs) and they love to pass the ball," he said. "We've got guys that can run, so I feel like we can keep up with the routes that they have. A lot of our coverages mesh to the routes that they're running so, I think it fits us pretty well."

Coach Willie Taggart concurred, saying he feels the Bulls are built to face any offense "as long as we execute it the way that we're capable of."

"But again, it's so important that we have eye discipline, we just don't fall for anything. It's so important that we don't give up explosive plays. We've got to do a great job of tackling and getting guys to the ball because they live off explosive plays."

MORE MACK: Taggart said Tuesday he assumes the blame for 2014 American Athletic Conference rushing leader Marlon Mack getting only 12 carries at Maryland. In three games, Mack has 53 carries -- five fewer than he had this time last season.

"No matter how that (Maryland) game goes, he's got to get more than 12 touches, he just has to," Taggart said. "And that's on me to make sure that he gets more than 12 touches, and he will."

TAKING A CUE FROM CINCY? Bulls QB Quinton Flowers, who by all accounts has shined in the half-dozen or so practices since the Maryland game, suggested his team has the chance to flourish with the short passing game against Memphis. …

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AAC Notebook: Moore's effort leaves coaches in awe

Cincinnati freshman Hayden Moore set a school and AAC single-game record with 557 passing yards in Thursday's 53-46 loss at Memphis.

AP Photo

Cincinnati freshman Hayden Moore set a school and AAC single-game record with 557 passing yards in Thursday's 53-46 loss at Memphis.

One must rewind to the Spandex era, when Bengals FB Ickey Woods gyrated his way into his city's consciousness, to find a Cincinnati football player whose debut has been more auspicious than Hayden Moore's.

Four days after the Bearcats freshman set a UC (and American Athletic Conference) single-game passing record (557 yards) in a three-quarter relief effort in Thursday's 53-46 loss at Memphis, Coach Tommy Tuberville still was gushing.

"I don't think I've ever seen a performance like that from a kid that's never played -- at any level of any football team," Tuberville said on Monday's AAC weekly coaches teleconference.

"He broke our record, and we've had some quarterbacks here that can really throw the football, and he did it in three quarters. ... He looked poised; he didn't look like a redshirt freshman that had only played like, 15 or 20 plays in college football. He threw the ball accurately."

Moore, who attempted 28 collegiate passes (two of them interceptions) entering Thursday's game, replaced Gunner Kiel late in the first period after Kiel took a frightening upper-body shot and was taken from the Liberty Bowl via stretcher.

He completed three of his first four passes, including a 68-yard TD to Jefferson High alumnus Chris Moore. It was the first of four consecutive scoring drives directed by the Clay, Ala., native.

"Obviously I have a tremendous amount of respect for what the kid accomplished and how they played offensively," Tigers coach Justin Fuente said Monday. "He hung in there and made some really great throws. ... They are very talented on the outisde but he put some balls on the money."

Kiel, who suffered a head injury the week before against Miami (Ohio), seems doubtful for the Bearcats' home game Saturday against the University of Miami. Tuberville said Kiel hasn't been cleared by the doctors yet.

OWNING THE ACC: East Carolina's rain-soaked 35-28 victory Saturday against Virginia Tech not only was the Pirates' second in a row against the Hokies, but their fifth consecutive triumph against ACC competition.

Trailing 14-0 eight minutes into the game, the Pirates rallied behind the quarterback tandem of Blake Kemp and James Summers, neither of whom entered the season as the projected heir to ECU career passing leader Shane Carden. Kemp directed consecutive TD drives to tie the score before giving way to Summers, a more gifted runner who finished with 169 rushing yards.

"We had two tough losses on the road (at Florida and at Navy) and we were down 14-0 early, and they didn’t flinch,” Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill said after the game. “They handled adversity, just like life, and they bounced back."

ODDS AND ENDS: Connecticut's Oct. 10 game at UCF, which Huskies coach Bob Diaco shamelessly hyped as the "Civil Conflict" all summer, will be televised by ESPNU. Kickoff is at 3:45. ... With three rushing touchdowns in Saturday's 28-18 win at UConn, Navy QB Keenan Reynolds moved into second place on the NCAA's career chart (73). Wisconsin's Montee Ball (77) owns the mark for now. ...  UCF (0-4) has led at halftime in three of its four losses. ... Temple (3-0) and Memphis (4-0) are the only Division I-A teams with two road wins at this point.

AUDIBLE: "I'm part of the ranking group and I voted them, I see them as a top 25 team if not higher than that. I think at the end of the year when the dust settles, they'll be up there a ways." -- Diaco on Navy (His vote was the only one the Midshipmen got in the latest coaches poll.) …

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Bulls bent on limiting Tigers' big plays

The American Athletic Conference's highest-scoring offense (53.8 ppg) comes to Raymond James Stadium on Friday, and if Bulls coach Willie Taggart has his way, it will have to grind for every point.

Unbeaten Memphis, third nationally in scoring and eighth in total offense (570.3 ypg), had six plays of 21 or more yards in Thursday's 53-46 home victory against Cincinnati. The Tigers have scored 40 or more points in six consecutive contests, the longest active streak in Division I-A.

On Friday, they face a beleaguered Bulls unit that has surrendered six plays of 25 or more yards in its last two contests alone.

Friday night's key: "Doing a good job of making them go the distance and keeping the ball in front of you and making good tackles," Taggart said.

"They live off big plays and missed tackles, so I think it's very important that we do a good job of trying to limit their explosive plays, and try to make them kick field goals instead of touchdowns in the red zone."

FULL FORCE: Friday's game will be the first this year in which USF will have its full complement of linebackers for an entire game.

Veteran 'stingers' (weakside 'backers) Tashon Whitehurst and Nigel Harris played at Maryland after serving two-game suspensions, but MLB Auggie Sanchez missed the first half as a result of his targeting-related ejection at FSU. Whitehurst and Harris teamed for seven tackles, with Harris botching a coverage on a TD pass to Maryland TE Avery Edwards. …

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Full disclosure: My AP football ballot

A little Sunday confession here: As a result of the volatility we've seen at the season's outset, I've already broken nearly every ballot rule I established for myself upon being chosen for this privilege.

In the span of four weekends, I've dropped teams for being idle, dropped others following a victory, and even promoted some following a lackluster win. When the collegiate world order is turned on its head each weekend (see Utah 62, Oregon 20), the same tends to happen to one's ballot.

At least I don't have a team ranked ahead of someone to whom it already has lost (at least I don't think I do).

At any rate, Oregon, Arizona, Georgia Tech, BYU and Missouri drop off this week's ballot. Oklahoma State, Mississippi State, Cal, Florida and Michigan supplant them. Yes, I have the Gators at No. 23. That win at Kentucky looks a tad more impressive today. Same for that victory two weeks ago against East Carolina.

You'll also notice I move Ole Miss up three spots (from No. 10 to 7) despite an ugly home win against Vanderbilt. Consider that my version of a make-up call; I ranked the Rebels too low last week following their win against Alabama.

1. Michigan State
3. Ohio State
4. Baylor
5. TCU
6. LSU
7. Ole Miss
8. Notre Dame
9. Utah
10. FSU
11. Clemson
12. Alabama
13. Georgia
14. Oklahoma
15. Texas A&M
16. Northwestern
17. Stanford
18. USC
19. Mississippi St.
20. Oklahoma St.
21. California
22. Wisconsin
23. Florida
24. Michigan
25. Temple

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Mayhem in Memphis: What does it mean for USF?

Bulls fans who observed Thursday night's arena-league-style throwdown between Cincinnati and Memphis likely couldn't help but ponder the implications of the Tigers' 53-46 victory on their own maligned team.

Memphis, 4-0 for the first time since 1961, comes to Raymond James Stadium a week from tonight. Will the Paxton Lynch we all watched Thursday show up as well? Will the Tigers defense show up at all? Will Memphis arrive with momentum or a hangover?

Let's consider some of these questions:

* Lynch is on fire, among the hottest quarterbacks in the country. With 412 passing yards against the Bearcats, he set a career-high for the third consecutive week. More than once Thursday, we could've sworn the ESPN broadcast tandem of Joe Tessitore and Jesse "The Bachelor" Palmer mentioned "Lynch" and "Heisman" in the same sentence.

Bottom line: Lynch's star is on the rise. For that matter, so is Tigers coach Justin Fuente's. Speaking of that...

*...we just can't see either allowing their team to suffer a letdown. Last season, the Tigers drubbed Cincinnati 41-14, a week after a 24-3 loss to Ole Miss. In mid-November, eight days after a critical three-point win at Temple, Memphis trounced Tulane 38-7.

"It was a great reward to have the stage, and obviously to find a way to win is even better. But the bottom line is we're 1-0 in the conference. And next Friday we've got to go to South Florida," Fuente said afterward, per the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "Any more context than that, to me, is a little bit lost."

If, for some reason, Fuente must conjure incentives for his team, try this one: If the Tigers defeat USF, they officially will have gone more than a year without a loss. Their next game after USF is Oct. 17 against Ole Miss; they last lost Oct. 11, 2014, to Houston.

* The 752 yards Memphis allowed Thursday (most in program history) was only a mild aberration. This unit, which lost eight starters from last season's team, is in transition. Granted, the Tigers limited Cincy to only two touchdowns in seven red-zone possessions, but that statistic is offset by the fact they allowed freshman QB Hayden Moore to throw for 557 yards in essentially three quarters (after starter Gunner Kiel was knocked out of the game).

The Tigers' defensive front appears ineffective, meaning they may need some help in run support against USF's read-option attack. That should open things up downfield for Quinton Flowers and Co. If the Bulls can't generate some offensive consistency against this group, well, one can presume the fallout.

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Simpson's goal lifts Bulls past UConn

As she observed her team's sluggishness at the outset of its most anticipated regular season match to date, USF coach Denise Schilte-Brown inwardly longed for a chance to return to the locker room and start all over.

Mother Nature obliged.

Apparently reinvigorated after a 43-minute lightning delay, the 24th-ranked Bulls (8-1-1) got a goal from Newsome High alumnus Jackie Simpson in the 79th minute to clinch a 1-0 triumph Thursday evening against No. 20 Connecticut (8-2) at Corbett Stadium.

The win partially avenged the Huskies' victory -- via penalty kicks -- on the same pitch last November in the American Athletic Conference tournament final.

"After last year, how they kind of took away what was supposed to be ours, we all came out here and started sloppy," said sophomore goalkeeper Kat Elliott, who finished with a career-best eight saves. "But toward the end we pulled it together and we got the win that we should've had last year."

Elliott notched four saves in the first 20 minutes as UConn built an early 10-9 shots advantage before play was halted with 15:03 to play in the first half.

"I think we  needed it. The reset was important, for whatever reason," Schilte-Brown said.

"I thought we came out looking to perform, show our skills, but not our effort. And then we regrouped in the locker room. And I love this team. They knew it; I didn't need to come in there and say a word. I did say a word, but I didn't need to. They were ready to come out and be a different team."

Simpson's game-winner -- her second goal of the season -- was set up when senior defender Alexis Rossi sent in a long ball that Grace Adams bobbled and flicked with her heel toward Simpson. Observing the goalkeeper approaching and the back open, Simpson -- naturally right-footed -- delivered a left-footed blast from just inside the penalty area.

"It feels really good," Simpson said. "We had that (loss last November) in the back of our minds the whole time and we were just playing for that, playing for the win. It was our first conference game and everyone was super excited. UConn's great competition, a great team and we get excited to play them every time."

The Bulls finished with a 17-15 shot advantage, with five players taking at least two.

"I actually think it's the best UConn team we've played in four years," Schilte-Brown said. "I just think that we're riding a really high wave right now."

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Bulls' lack of energy at UM 'hard to stomach,' Allen says

First-year defensive coordinator Tom Allen had a very candid response Thursday to senior Jamie Byrd's observation that the Bulls came out "a little lackadaiscal" at last week's game at Maryland.

He agrees.

"Lack of energy," Allen said when asked to identify his unit's biggest problem in that 35-17 loss. "I just felt like we were just, blah, and that's hard to explain. It's almost hard to stomach, too."

Allen said he was concerned about such a letdown upon trotting into a half-filled Byrd Stadium (announced attendance was only 36,827) at high noon, only seven days after the Bulls had played before an audience twice as large (72,811) at FSU. Still, he said it didn't excuse the defense's collective lethargy and lack of discipline.

(We addressed (the atmosphere) and talked about that, and we never could get the triggers fired, and that really frustrated me," Allen said.

"When I put the film in, that's what I saw. ... Two of (Maryland's big plays) were just getting run past, and a couple of them were just discipline. So I would say discipline and just bringing fanatical effort. To me, there's just no other way. ... It's a prerequisite to greatness, and I just feel like we didn't do it, and you saw the result."

ODDS AND ENDS: Allen said he used this week's three practices -- all in full pads -- to re-emphasize eye discipline and discipline with keys among his players, and re-instill a sense of urgency. "I think we didn't see that on Saturday, and it's really not negotiable," he said. ... Bulls coaches bolted their offices early Thursday afternoon for a long weekend of recruiting. ... Allen, who arrived from Ole Miss, said the Rebels staff tried to recruit Bulls sophomore DT Deadrin Senat, who had a career-high nine tackles at Maryland. "We...thought he had an SEC skill set, he was just a little undersized," Allen said.

AUDIBLE: "I say that it's easy to be negative and it's easy to...hang it out and just say, 'Season's over.' But whoever says that, they're dead wrong. We're 1-2, we've played two very good opponents the past two games. ... I think we need to, as a Bulls family, realize that we're not where we want to be, but we could finish the season 10-2, and everybody would forget this happened." -- senior RT Mak Djulbegovic on the sky-is-falling sentiment harbored by part of the fan base

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Bulls' energy level at UM 'hard to stomach,' Allen says

First-year defensive coordinator Tom Allen had a very candid response Thursday to senior Jamie Byrd's observation that the Bulls came out "a little lackadaiscal" at last week's game at Maryland.

He agrees.

"Lack of energy," Allen said when asked to identify his unit's biggest problem in that 35-17 loss. "I just felt like we were just blah, and that's hard to explain. It's almost hard to stomach, too."

Allen said he was concerned about such a letdown upon trotting into a half-filled Byrd Stadium (announced attendance was only 36,827) at high noon, only seven days after the Bulls had played before an audience twice as large (72,811) at FSU. …

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Bulls women get highest preseason ranking yet

The preseason love being heaped on the USF women's basketball team reached a new level of adulation Wednesday.

Sporting News has ranked the Bulls 15th in its 2015-16 preview magazine, the team's highest preseason projection yet. Additionally, senior SG Courtney Williams is a first-teamer on the magazine's preseason All-America team and low-post classmate Alisia Jenkins is a second-teamer.

Only four other schools have two players named preseason first- and second-team All-Americans by Sporting News.

Williams (1,541 career points) is on pace to join Jessica Dickson as the second 2,000-point scorer in program history. Barring injury or other unforeseen casualty, she could graduate as the only Bulls player to record 2,000 points, 800 rebounds (she's at 645) and 300 assists (currently 231).

Jenkins (965 career rebounds, 993 points) likely will shatter Wanda Guyton's career rebounding mark (1,077) and join Guyton as the second player with 1,000 career points and rebounds in USF history.

Whole lotta love
A look at USF's preseason rankings according to various publications
The Sporting News: 15th
ESPN: 21st
Lindy's: 22nd
Athlon: 23rd

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