Bulls taking ownership of defensive struggles
If Bulls fans were looking for accountability in the wake of USF's 31-27 loss at Ball State, there was no shortage of it Monday morning, as coaches and defensive players took ownership for the team's poor showing in forcing only two punts and no turnovers in the loss.
"I think there's an awful lot we as coaches can do. I think there's an awful lot we as players can do," coach Skip Holtz said. "I think there's some ownership that needs to fall on the coaches, and some of the scheme things that we did. I think there's ownership that needs to fall on the players from an effort and execution standpoint as well, things that we've covered. I think this football team is very disappointed in themselves. I think they know they're better than that."
Senior linebacker Mike Lanaris had actually addressed the loss on Twitter on Saturday night, writing: "To Bullsnation, i apologize for the performance of our D. As a senior, i accept full responsibility and vow for it to never happen again."
Lanaris said Monday that the blame for USF's defensive struggles shouldn't fall on Bulls coaches, but in players who have failed to execute gameplans prepared for them leading up to the losses.
"It has nothing to do with the coaches. Us, as players, have to do a better job," he said. "We have a job. They teach us what our job is and you need to do it. Be where you're supposed to be, do what you're supposed to do. As players, we have to do a much better job of that. That's the biggest thing. There's nobody to blame but ourselves. The seniors accept that fault. We've got to get this team and the defense ready to play. If we don't, that's our fault."
Defensive end Julius Forte said after watching tape of Saturday's loss -- in which USF's defense didn't have a single tackle for loss, or any takeaways -- he said what he saw didn't match what has been associated with Bulls defenses in the past.
"I'll tell you what we don't see. We don't see USF front seven," Forte said. "From years on in, we've been known for being physical, fast, pressuring offenses. We haven't been doing that to the best of our ability. But like I said, it's not to the best of our ability. We can and we will. We're going to practice and practice and practice and keep emphasizing it, until we get to where we want to be and beyond."
Defensive end Ryne Giddins said the defense hasn't been aggressive enough, but playing Florida State on Saturday gives the Bulls a chance to change their identity on a huge platform.
"Last two weeks, we've been struggling, trying to really find ourselves, to get back to our swag," he said. "This game can prove a lot to ourselves, not just to everybody else. We accept the challenge. ... We're not attacking. The front seven's starting to read stuff, which we normally don't do. We're going back to attacking, not just fitting in gaps. We're hitting people in the mouth."
Lanaris has gotten his share of, um, feedback from fans on Twitter, but said he doesn't mind responding to online criticism directly.
"People have no idea what they're talking about most of the time," he said. "I'm not going to blame somebody for just being misinformed, not really knowing what's going on. ... You're a fan. Fans deserve to have the best effort put forth by their team and they deserve good performances. If we don't give them that and somebody calls me out or calls us out on that, all I can do is accept responsibility as a senior and as the middle linebacker. That's fine. I'll take that."
Lanaris already has his undergraduate degree, and he said having a courseload of graduate-level classes has perhaps insulated him more from the wrath of regular USF students, frustrated with the team's two losses.
"It's good for me. I have a Master's class with, like, 40-year-olds, so they never really know what's going on," Lanaris said. "I don't have to deal with students or walk around during the day and deal with 'Rah-rah this.' They're kind of just like a bunch of old people that don't really care about football."