Holtz disappointed by offensive line's 'mental busts'
TAMPA -- With no traditional running game and consistent pressure on quarterback B.J. Daniels in Thursday's loss to Rutgers, offensive line was a position of concern for USF coach Skip Holtz, who hopes for better play Saturday when the Bulls play at Ball State.
"We did not play very well up front on the offensive line," Holtz said. "We only had about 20 called runs because we couldn't do anything consistently. It wouldn't bother me if it were all physical breakdowns, but they were mental breakdowns as much as anything, uncharacteristic things we didn't do all week. We got out there in the game and it was like everything was forgotten ... a lot of mental busts."
Only one of USF's first starting linemen graded out as a winner for the week when game tape was reviewed, and while USF didn't give up a sack, Daniels found himself on the run too often, and Holtz said the spotlight of a national Thursday game on ESPN may have been a factor with his less experienced linemen.
"I talked about the circus outside the lines. It's easy to get caught up in the fans and the crowd and the television cameras, everybody texting telling you they're going to see you on TV tonight," Holtz said. "You've got that little Sky Cam zooming all over on top of your head. There are a lot of things there to take your focus away from where it needs to be, which is what's going on between those lines."
Holtz said the consistent pressure had an impact on Daniels' performance -- he had three interceptions, but two were on passes deflected by their targets to defenders. And because Rutgers didn't have to blitz to get that pressure, there weren't as many openings to be found in the passing game.
"I think (Daniels) really did a nice job of getting away from (pressure), and I think we're being a little bit unfair to him, asking him to play quarterback with that much pressure coming at him all the time," Holtz said. "He's trying to keep his eyes downfield. We had way too much penetration in the offensive line. They didn't have to blitz to get there. They got there with a four-man rush."
THIS AND THAT: Senior corner George Baker was picked as the team's defensive player of the week after getting four of the team's six pass breakups. ... Holtz said guard Mark Popek (ankle) and safety Mark Joyce (undisclosed) didn't practice Sunday but should when the Bulls next practice Tuesday and should be healthy for Ball State. Running back Marcus Shaw, who has missed the last two games with an ankle sprain, still has not returned to practice. ... If there was any chance of USF taking Ball State lightly, that went away Saturday when the Cardinals beat Indiana on a field goal as time expired. Ball State had lost a 13-point lead in the final five minutes, but rallied to beat the Hoosiers for the second year in a row.