Offensive line proud of role in Bulls' strong start
TAMPA -- Offensive line was supposed to be a major question mark this season with three starters graduated from last year, but the position has been solid in USF's first three wins, allowing just three sacks for the second-lowest total in the Big East.
"(Coaches) want us to dominate and set the tone for the running game," senior guard Jeremiah Warren said. "We feel it's our duty to give our part to the team. ... (Zero sacks in 90 offensive plays Saturday) That's a blessing. We're blessed, because that's a very hard task. You want your o-line to have confidence. If you play confident, you play better, you make less mistakes, you think on your feet better."
Quarterback B.J. Daniels, who has six touchdowns against just one interception this season, said the protection and time he's had in the pocket, along with a strong traditional running game, have helped him play at a high level going into Saturday's home game against UTEP.
"Our front five has really done a great job," Daniels said. "They've opened up some holes for (running backs) Darrell Scott, Demetris Murray and Marcus Shaw. They were working all summer, and now they're just showing the final product. (Running) takes a lot of pressure off me and the offensive coordinator (Todd Fitch). Managing a second-and-5 is a lot easier than first-and-10."
THAT'D BE FINE: With a quick turnaround from Saturday's game to the Big East opener Thursday night at Pittsburgh, Skip Holtz said he would turn to his bench if the Bulls are able to build a big lead as they did against Florida A&M, but as much so for his backups as to give his starters the extra rest.
"I think anybody would love to have that opportunity -- the first objective is to do what you have to do to win the game," Holtz said. "If we have an opportunity to play our 2s a little bit in this game, I'm going to play them for the experience that they need."
THIS AND THAT: Safety Tyson Butler sat out practice with a hamstring injury. Holtz said starting cornerback Quenton Washington would have to return healthy from a lingering knee injury and practice Thursday if he's to play in Saturday's game. He has a policy of not starting players who cannot practice on Tuesday or Wednesday of a game week. ... USF punter Justin Brockhaus-Kann leads the Big East in net punting, averaging 38.7 net yards on his 12 punts, with just one touchback. ... USF also leads the Big East in third-down defense, holding opponents to a 24.4 percent conversion rate on third downs. That rate is good enough to rank 9th nationally. UTEP ranks 89th nationally in third-down conversions.