Secondary breakdowns a problem for Holtz
TAMPA -- USF finished Friday's loss to Louisville without either starting cornerback in the game, but the missed assignments that led to giving up three passing touchdowns in zone coverage to the Cardinals remained a major frustration for Bulls coach Skip Holtz.
"Defensively, we give up three touchdown passes uncontested in three-deep zone," Holtz said. "You're in three-deep zone and the ball goes over your head, you're not doing your job. ... It's one thing when you're in man coverage, and they go up and take it away from you. OK, they were better than us, tip your hat, congratulations, good for you. It's a whole other thing when you don't cover them, especially when you're playing zone defense and trying to be safe and not give up anything foolish. That's the part that hurts as a coach."
Of Louisville's three touchdowns, two had receivers beating starting defensive backs Quenton Washington and Jerrell Young, with the other on backup George Baker, who was pressed into a starting role with starter Kayvon Webster out with a concussion. The nature of the mistakes -- he estimated USF has played 70 percent of its defensive downs in three-deep zone -- is especially puzzling.
"There's no reason to have a blown assignment when you're in three-deep, to not be as deep as the deepest. If they throw it up there and it's three-deep and we go up and he takes it from us, I'm cool with that. You know what? I'll give them all the credit in the world for doing what they had to do to win. But when you throw it up there and we're not even back there, that's on us. You drop a punt, what did they have to do with that? Nothing. They have three uncontested touchdowns. What did they have to do for that? They threw and caught it. They didn't have to win. It's like pass-skel (drills), on air."
Holtz said his players played poorly enough in three-deep that he won't line up in it against West Virginia, just to avoid the embarrassment of having more mistakes made from being out of position.
"If we put three-deep in this week, I blame us. That's our fault," Holtz said. "But it's a bread-and-butter coverage. Why? I don't know. I haven't had the opportunity to ask some of the players involved with it."
Holtz said that all over the field, he's seeing younger players pressed by injuries into starting roles, and it's exposing depth concerns that he's had since before the season started.
"Depth is rearing its ugly head. I've been talking about this from the beginning, that depth was the biggest concern I had on this team," he said. "Your punt returner's out, your backup (Victor Marc) has now put two balls on the ground that have cost us points in close football games. You've got a young quarterback (Bobby Eveld) that had to go in and play. I thought he played well, did some very good things, but we were very limited in what we could do. A young wide receiver (Andre Davis) who stepped up turned the ball over in the (fourth) quarter. We've got (two starting corners) out and (JaQuez) Jenkins and (George) Baker out there getting a lot of work. It's unfortunate. They want to be good. It just seemed like Louisville was able to capitalize on every opportunity we gave them."
Holtz said he would know better after Sunday night's practice whether starting quarterback B.J. Daniels has made progress with the shoulder injury that kept him out of Friday's game. The Bulls finish the regular season at home Thursday night against No. 22 West Virginia, needing a win to be bowl-eligible and extend a six-year bowl streak.