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This year, bowl eligibility not as big a deal for USF

USF coach Willie Taggart's team can achieve bowl eligibility with a win Saturday night at home against Connecticut.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF coach Willie Taggart's team can achieve bowl eligibility with a win Saturday night at home against Connecticut.

10

October

Only 11 months ago, USF students stormed the Raymond James Stadium field after the Bulls' 44-23 rout of Temple that clinched bowl eligibility.

Seven victories (and only two defeats) later, the prospect of qualifying for a bowl elicits nary a shout -- or even a shrug -- in the Bulls camp.

"Actually, we're not (talking about it)," Coach Willie Taggart said on the weekly AAC coaches teleconference Monday.

In the oh-by-the-way department, USF (5-1, 2-0 American Athletic Conference) becomes bowl-eligible for the second consecutive season if it defeats Connecticut at home Saturday night. A victory also matches the 2007 and '08 teams for the program's best start.

"All we're talking about is just going 1-0 this week and trying to stack victories back to back and just focusing on that week," Taggart said. "That's not something that we stress about because we want more than just getting bowl-eligible."

History indicates entering the six-win stratosphere won't be easy. The Bulls have won their last four against UConn, but their last nine meetings with the Huskies have been decided by single digits, with an average margin of 4.8 points.

CHART POSITIONS: As of today, the Bulls rank eighth nationally in scoring offense (44.5 ppg), 11th in turnover margin (plus-1.17), 12th in rushing offense (260.5 ypg), 17th in interceptions (seven), 18th in total offense (502.7 ypg) and 24th in fewest sacks allowed (1.17).

Go a bit lower, and they're 100th in total defense (445.8 ypg) and 104th against the run (209.8). Following Saturday's 38-22 win against East Carolina, when they totaled a season-high 101 yards on nine penalties, they're now 82nd nationally with 59.8 penalty yards per contest.

"That's just not what we do offensively," said Taggart, whose offense was flagged seven times Saturday. "It was just sloppy overall and I look back to last week, we had a sloppy practice (during the week). We always say you play like you practice, and that's exactly what we did offensively."

Individually, junior utility specialist D'Ernest Johnson is ninth nationally in punt returns (14.6 yards per attempt) and QB Quinton Flowers is 22nd in passing efficiency (155.8).

ODDS AND ENDS: Taggart said he expects TE Kano Dillon (ankle) to play Saturday against Connecticut, but isn't sure about S Devin Abraham (thumb). Neither suited up against East Carolina. ... Flowers, who totaled 365 yards and passed for three TDs Saturday, made the AAC weekly honor roll. Navy QB Will Worth, a Newsome High alumnus who ran for 115 yards and totaled three TDs in the Midshipmen's 46-40 upset of Houston, was named Offensive Player of the Week.

[Last modified: Monday, October 10, 2016 1:34pm]

    

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