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.
Sanchez had six second-half tackles. "This week in practice, (Whitehurst and Harris) have been a lot better," said Taggart, whose team practiced Monday (normally an 'academic' day) in preparation for Friday night's contest.
"I thought their first game back they were thinking a lot and were out of place a lot of times, and they made a big improvement in that this bye week. ... We've gotten the rust off and now I expect for our defense to play like they're capable of, and more importantly not give up the big plays like we've been doing."
ODDS AND ENDS: The AAC announced the Bulls' Oct. 10 homecoming game against Syracuse will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network. ... Taggart said the Bulls, coming off their lone bye week of the regular season, are "pretty much healthy." ... Dave Flemming (play-by-play), Mack Brown (analysis) and Allison Williams (sideline) will have ESPN2's call of Friday's game. ... Memphis has 215 points so far, the most by a Tigers team through four games in the program's history.
AUDIBLE: "Their defensive front is the first thing (that stands out). And not that they're not good in the back end because they are. But to me, when you just watch the film you look at their front seven. It's pretty impressive." -- Memphis coach Justin Fuente on USF