Holtz: Not much between Bulls' losses and winning
USF coach Skip Holtz is enduring the first four-game losing streak in Bulls history, but the fact that his last two losses saw the Bulls lose the lead in the final 90 seconds can remind players how close they are to getting back on the winning side.
"That's why it's frustrating: You're right there," Holtz said Monday about Saturday's 20-17 overtime loss to Rutgers, which saw the Bulls lose a 14-point lead with less than eight minutes to play. "You can look back on the film, and every player can say 'If I only would have caught that interception. If I only would have knocked that ball down. If I only would have caught the ball on third-and-5. If, if, if. We're that close. That's what makes it frustrating and not discouraging. I think that's why everybody's attitude is 'Let's roll 'em up. We've got to change one play and we win. One play and we turn this thing around."
USF led in the third quarter against Connecticut as well, so Holtz is making the case that with a single play changed in each of the last three games, the Bulls could be in a much different position than their current spot at 0-4 in the Big East. A loss Friday at Syracuse will guarantee the Bulls have at least a share of last place in the Big East, which would be a first in their seven seasons in the conference.
"I know they're hurt. I know they're disappointed," he said. "It's frustrating more than it is anything else to be this close and not be able to be here 7-1 right now."
SIDELINED: Junior running back Darrell Scott, who went for 100 yards in Saturday's loss at Rutgers and leads the team with 611 yards, was held out of Monday's practice, putting his status for Friday's game at Syracuse in question.
Scott missed the final 10 minutes of Saturday's game, limited by both a wrist injury and headaches. USF has a solid backup in junior Demetris Murray (346 yards), but Scott is averaging 5.7 yards per carry, while Murray is averaging 4.2. Both started in the same backfield Saturday, marking the first time Murray had started since the second game of the season.
NEED TWO MORE: Holtz said he has talked to the team about how USF needs two wins in its remaining four games to be bowl-eligible, which would extend the team's streak to seven seasons in a bowl and would give the Bulls valuable extra practice time in December.
"We'd better get something done as we go down the stretch, because if this continues and you continue to lose close games, you're not going to a bowl," Holtz said. "I worry more about this team, the hard work they've put in, the effort, the attitude, the closeness, the way they've bought in, a lot of the foundation things that are being built for this program for the longterm ... We've addressed it. We've talked about it."
MOVE 'EM BACK: After 11 tackles for loss in Saturday's game, USF now leads the nation in tackles for loss, averaging 9.0 per game. Defensive end Ryne Giddins leads the team with 10 this season, with linebacker DeDe Lattimore close behind with nine. Those two now share USF's team lead for sacks with 4.5 each, already more than any Bulls player finished with last season.
INEXCUSABLE: Without specifically citing Victor Marc's decision to try to field a punt on the bounce inside his 20-yard line, leading to Rutgers' first points, Holtz said some of the mistakes made on special teams Saturday were glaringly bad.
"Some of the mistakes in special teams, some of the decisions that are being made are with absolutely no recourse of what could happen," Holtz said. "It's like it's a playground. 'Let's pick it up and run with it.' The (reward) is not worth the (risk)."