USF and penalties: From worst to first
TAMPA -- One area where USF has made a marked improvement in Skip Holtz's first season is in penalties, where the Bulls have gone from worst in the Big East to second-best, with far less flags than last season.
"We've definitely cut them down," Holtz said. "They're getting better each and every week. I think it's just a matter of stressing the importance of it, coaching it on film, talking to them about a hold and what that does to your drive. They've really done a nice job with it."
USF is averaging 5.3 penalties for 40.4 yards per game, trailing only Connecticut in both categories. Last season, the Bulls averaged 7.0 flags for 57.6 yards, both highs in the Big East.
USF has averaged 23.5 fewer penalty yards than its opponents, the best differential in the Big East. Last season, the Bulls averaged 8.4 yards in penalties more than their opponents, the worst differential in the conference. This chart shows each teams average penalty yards relative to their average penalty yards allowed for each of the last two seasons:
Team '09 differential '10 differential
Connecticut -12.3 -16.5
Rutgers -8.5 -4.1
Cincinnati -6.4 +8.3
Pittsburgh -5.8 -1.8
West Virginia -1.6 -11.9
Syracuse -0.6 -1.5
Louisville +2.4 +6.0
USF +8.4 -23.5
BIG CHALLENGE: Thursday was USF's first full practice for Wednesday's home game against Rutgers, a team that has had the Bulls' number in recent years, dominating USF in the last two meetings.
"I thought they were really into it. They understand what we need to get done and the way this football team has owned us, especially in the last couple of years," Holtz said. "You look at the score last year being 31-0 and two years ago being (49-16). They understand the challenge we have ahead of us right now and it showed in practice today."
THIS AND THAT: Senior cornerback Mistral Raymond sat out Thursday's practice with a bruised quad, but Holtz said he expects him to be ready to play against Rutgers. ... Holtz said receiver A.J. Love, out all season recovering from knee surgery, is "at least two weeks away," and he said he believes Love could get a sixth year of eligibility in 2011 if he isn't able to play this season. Holtz said his understanding is that Love has a documented injury to make 2006, his first year with the team, a hardship year and not simply a regular redshirt season.