FSU game 'huge' opportunity for respect, Taggart says
Bulls coach Willie Taggart's efforts to rein in the hype of Saturday's showdown against FSU spanned less than two minutes.
Speaking on the American Athletic Conference weekly coaches teleconference Monday, Taggart initially dismissed a suggestion that his team now can finally focus on the "big one" after winning its first three games.
"I wouldn't necessarily call it the big one," Taggart responded. "Everyone keeps saying it's the big one, this is just the next game on our schedule."
But when the next caller asked how significant an upset of the 13th-ranked Seminoles would be, the former option quarterback didn't sidestep.
"I think it will be big, just from a respect (standpoint) and getting national attention," Taggart said. "That's something we as a program said we wanted to do, we want to earn respect. We don't want anyone to give it to us, we want to earn it, and it's a hell of an opportunity for us to go out and do that this weekend."
Despite a 3-0 start that has helped account for the most prolific seven-game stretch (48.1 ppg) in program history, the Bulls received only seven votes in the latest Associated Press poll. The Tampa Bay Times ballot ranked USF 24th.
FSU currently is a seven-point favorite in Saturday's game, which kicks off at noon at Raymond James Stadium.
"This is huge," Taggart said. "We've got a great opportunity on national TV to go earn some of that respect that we're looking for."
GROUP EFFORT: A prevailing story line for Saturday will be whether 'Noles TB Dalvin Cook can emerge from his early-season funk (228 rushing yards in three games) and deliver an encore to his '15 effort, when he toasted the Bulls for 266 yards and three TDs (including a 74-yarder).
Taggart says the Bulls didn't tackle well at all that day -- a deficiency that plagued them early Saturday against Syracuse -- and were kept on the field too long. Subtract D'Ernest Johnson's 71-yard TD catch from Quinton Flowers, and USF totaled only 77 second-half yards against the 'Noles last season.
"We didn't move the ball as well as we wanted to," Taggart said. "So I think that caused our defense to be on the field a lot longer, and the longer they're on the field eventually Cook's gonna break one of those."
At any rate, Taggart said he believes the '16 Bulls are a better tackling unit overall.
"We've got to gang-tackle (Cook) and wrap him up and be very fundamentally sound," Taggart said. "Last year we did a poor job of tackling and he made us pay for that. So we've got to get guys to the football and hold on for teammates to come help out."
ANOTHER NIGHT KICKOFF: The AAC announced Monday the Bulls' Oct. 1 game at Cincinnati will kick off at 7 p.m., and will be televised on ESPN2 or ESPNU. A final network determination comes Sept. 29.
ODDS AND ENDS: Taggart said he expects S Khalid McGee and DT Bruce Hector, both of whom missed the Syracuse game with ankle injuries, to play against FSU. "How could you miss a ball game like this?" Taggart said. ... Senior WR Rodney Adams, whose TD surge continued with three end-zone trips at Syracuse, made the AAC's weekly honor roll Monday. Adams has 16 TDs in his last 12 contests. ... Taggart was asked if he saw any offensive similarities between his team and Louisville, which embarrassed FSU 63-20 on Saturday. "We're different but we run some of the same plays," he said. "We have some similarities at times, but we're a lot different from how we go about attacking teams."