Holtz: Bulls didn't learn from others' mistakes
We had the chance Sunday night to talk with USF coach Skip Holtz for nearly a half-hour about Thursday's loss to West Virginia and the Bulls' 5-7 season as a whole. We had the biggest news from that conversation -- Darrell Scott considering the NFL Draft, etc. -- last night, and there's much more we can write about this season, looking back on things.
One thing we asked about was USF's turnover with 3:02 left, having gotten a first down at the WVU 28-yard line with a tie game and the Mountaineers out of time outs. In hindsight even an hour after the game, it seemed like a safe plan to simply run up the middle three times, chew up as much clock as possible and give Maikon Bonani a chance to win the game wih a field goal.
"Hindsight, looking back, yeah, I wish I would have gotten two backs and two tight ends and just ran the ball into the line three times and kicked the field goal," Holtz said. "At the same point in time, we put the ball in our best offensive player's hands for the way he was playing."
Instead of course, USF saw quarterback B.J. Daniels lose a fumble, which set up West Virginia's drive that ended with a game-winning kick as time expired, ending the Bulls' season and bowl hopes.
Remember, first, that Darrell Scott was out of the game with a shoulder injury, and that Demetris Murray had totaled 3 yards on his previous three carries going back a series.
"With Darrell Scott, the way he was running in that football game, it was a little different mindset when he went out," Holtz said. "All the sudden, things that were going for 8 were going for 2, and that's when we started spreading things out a little bit more."
After Lindsey Lamar's kickoff return set USF up at the West Virginia 41, Daniels had run for a first down, showing the presence to slide to a stop inbounds to keep the clock running. Holtz said the call from the sidelines wasn't a Daniels carry, but rather another bubble screen, which had been working well -- two plays earlier, Victor Marc had a 5-yard catch to set up third-and-short. USF had used two-back sets early, and West Virginia brought its defense up and stopped it effectively.
"Believe me, I've second-guessed and questioned every call, defense, everything else you make as you go back and watch the film," Holtz said. "In hindsight, it's easy. It's not like we ran a dropback pass and threw the ball over the middle. It's not like we ran a trick play and tried to sneak someone or threw a fade."
Daniels has gotten criticism from fans in his three years as starter for the way he carries the ball out away from his body, making himself vulnerable to exactly what happened on that play -- Najee Goode popped the ball out and West Virginia recovered the fumble. Holtz said USF's coaches have worked to try to get Daniels to carry the ball more safely when he's running.
"It is something we've talked about, pointed out, something we've addressed," Holtz said. "Maybe it takes something like that to say 'Wow, all right, what they're saying is true. Eventually it's going to cost us a game.' What's so difficult is it's somebody different every time. Everybody has gotten involved. That's part of having the youth on the football game. We can't have everybody make the same mistake and then go 'OK, now I get it.' (Freshman receiver) Andre (Davis) made it. Let's all learn from Andre's mistake. It's like 'Your brother just burned his hand sticking it on the stove. It's hot. Don't you do the same thing.' We've got to do a better job as coaches."
Asked if he'll put together a reel of the Bulls' late-game mistakes that have cost them so many fourth-quarter leads, Holtz said there would be a lot of such review in the offseason.
"They will see them. We'll probably watch the last 10 minutes of about 10 football games, all offseason," Holtz said. "We need to understand what you have to do to win. I don't know everything we're going to do to get that point across, to teach it. We definitely have some great teaching moments from this season."