Taggart: USF defense must persist amid adversity
TAMPA -- Two days after a shocking 53-21 loss to I-AA McNeese State in his debut as USF coach, Williie Taggart said Monday that his team must respond to adversity much better than the Bulls did as things unraveled Saturday night.
McNeese scored two touchdowns in a span of 24 seconds for a 16-7 lead, and added 17 more points before halftime, the most allowed in any quarter in USF football history. Taggart said after the game that he felt some players "quit on us" during the game, something he would not tolerate regardless of the score.
"Going back and watching the film, I think our guys stopped playing with a lot of passion in that game," Taggart said Monday. "When things got bad, our guys started to look for more bad things to happen, got frustrated, stopped playing within this defensive system and tried really to play football their way and make plays rather stay within the scheme. We just didn't play fundamentally sound, defensively or offensively. ... I know we're a better team than what we put out on Saturday. Our guys have to regroup and correct the mistakes we made. We have to play a heck of a lot better than we did the other night."
Taggart stressed that gap responsibility -- having defensive players focus on their individual role and place in stopping an opponent -- is crucial to his defense's success, and when players aren't careful about that, the defense is vulnerable to big plays it allowed Saturday.
"When things got tough in that game, we stopped playing within the scheme of the defense," he said. "That's part of the whole culture change, getting our guys to believe no matter what. Play within the system, don't do your own thing. That's exactly what happened in that ballgame: We had guys that weren't in their gaps or were getting their too late."
QUIET DEBUT: Defensive end Aaron Lynch made his debut after sitting out last season following his transfer from Notre Dame, and he had a quiet first game, with three tackles and no sacks.
"I think Aaron fell into the trap with the rest of our defense," he said. "When things got tough, everybody wanted to make a play ... but weren't doing it within the defense. It cost us at times. Aaron, he's just got to play ball, play within the defense, be Aaron, don't try to do more than we ask him to do and things will work out for us. ... It was his first game, getting used to it. I think you'll see a different Aaron Lynch on Saturday."
QB BATTLE: Taggart said Matt Floyd, who started Saturday and threw two costly interceptions, and Bobby Eveld, who threw two touchdowns in the second half, will compete this week for the starting nod at Michigan State, saying only that he'll decide on a starter later in the week.
"Matt started the game off and wasn't sharp at all. It was surprising -- he missed some throws, missed some reads, just wasn't sharp. It was uncharacteristic of what Matt's been for us through training camp. I was expecting a lot more," Taggart said. "It was good to see Bobby come in and spark our offense a little bit and get us going. We're going to let this week play out, let those guys compete and work this week and make a decision toward the end of the week of who we'll go with at starting quarterback."
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Taggart said the offense struggled particularly on first and third down, going just 3-for-13 on third-down conversions. "Both first and third down, we were horrible," Taggart said. "It's not typical of the offense we run. We've got to get better and take care of the ball. We can't put our defense in those tough situations. We're still learning our offense."
NOTES: Taggart said senior guard Lawrence Martin, who was suspended from the opener for a violation of team rules last week, will be able to play Saturday at Michigan State. ... Two true freshmen who did not dress for Saturday's game, defensive tackle Bruce Hector and fullback Kennard Swanson, are expected to redshirt this year. ... Defensive end Julius Forte, who missed the game recovering from knee surgery, is expected back at practice Tuesday and will progress from there. ... Guard Thor Jozwiak, sidelined the last three weeks with an irregular heartbeat, continues to recover "slowly but surely" and the Bulls won't set a timetable for his return. ... Fullback Tye Turner (neck stinger) practiced last week but did not dress and could play at Michigan State.