Football report: Taggart says hype may have affected QB
TAMPA -- After being excessively hailed for his debut performance at Houston, Bulls freshman QB Mike White probably had no chance of living up to the sudden hype surrounding him.
But he tried to, a bit too hard. Hence the reason for White's mild regression in USF's last two games, Coach Willie Taggart said Monday.
In the 35-23 loss at Houston, White posted the best passing-yardage debut ever (311 yards, two TDs, one INT) by a Bulls quarterback. In his last two games, he has completed 55.2 percent of his passes (37-for-67) for 415 yards, one TD and six picks.
"I just recall we lost that ball game (at Houston), but you would've thought we won it, how excited everyone around here (was)," said Taggart, whose team travels Friday to Orlando for the eagerly anticipated renewal of the rivalry against UCF.
"I think that got to Mike -- and understandably so -- to where he felt like he had to be the savior in these ball games. When we were down and we needed a play he tried to make plays."
As a result, White has rushed things a bit and failed to progress through his reads. In Saturday's 16-6 loss to SMU, Taggart said he focused too much on trying to get the ball to leading receiver Andre Davis (five catches, 113 yards).
"He'll come to the sideline and tell you what he did wrong and what he needs to do to correct it," Taggart said. "Even though he hadn't been the player he was at Houston, he continues working and that's what it will take. ... He's still learning."
PRIME-TIME FINALE: The American Athletic Conference announced the Bulls' season finale Dec. 7 at Rutgers will kick off at 7:30 p.m. and be televised on ESPN2. It will be the Bulls' fifth consecutive night game and eighth of the season.
BRING ON THE KNIGHTS: Unlike the prior decade, when USF resided in the Big East and saw little benefit to playing UCF, Taggart loves the idea of renewing the rivalry annually.
Considering they're now neighbors in the American, a regular Bulls-Knights meeting is a given for the foreseeable future. The teams previously have met only four times, the last in 2008. USF has won all four.
"I love the idea of playing them," Taggart said.
"I could tell when I first got the job the importance of it all. I mean, we weren't even playing yet, but you'd skip over the other games to talk about the Central Florida game, so you know the importance of it to our fans and our alumni."
Knights coach George O'Leary said he has lobbied to play USF all along, citing the obvious geographic rivalry and potential financial benefit to both programs.
"And now I don't have to worry about pushing it," he said. "They're in our own conference."
AUDIBLE: "I thought other than TCU they were probably the best defense we've played." -- SMU coach June Jones on USF's defense. The Bulls limited SMU to 280 total yards -- 200 below its season average -- in the Mustangs' 16-6 victory Saturday