Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

South Florida Bulls defense focuses on stopping third-down conversions

Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova had lots of time in the pocket during last week’s win at USF.

Associated Press

Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova had lots of time in the pocket during last week’s win at USF.

TAMPA — Time and time again in last week's game against Rutgers, USF's defense made big stops on first and second down, setting up a favorable third and long, only to give up frustrating conversions.

Four times Rutgers converted out of third and 10 or longer, and a fifth time, a USF penalty extended a drive. Five days earlier, in a win against Nevada, USF's defense extended drives with third-down penalties three times, once in the final minute.

"It's hard to get teams into a third-and-long situation. That's what you want to do as a defense," linebacker Michael Lanaris said. "It's kind of a moot point when you're busting your tail to get them into that third and long, and they come away with a big conversion. We've got to do a better job with that."

So as the Bulls look to regroup Saturday at Ball State, the defense is focused on improving its third-down play and getting off the field. USF's defense has been on the field 33 more minutes than its opponents' through three games.

"We couldn't get off the field on third down, which was really an Achilles heel for us," coach Skip Holtz said. "(It) made the day a little longer than we wanted it to be on defense. … First and second, it's loss of one, loss of two and it's third and 12. You feel like you're going to win the majority of those. It's draining. 'We let them out.' Then you do it again on first and second down. It has a little bit of a psychological take on you."

Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova beat the Bulls on three third-and-long plays in the same quarter with passes to receiver Tim Wright. USF's defensive backs said they want a better focus on the specifics of a play, knowing exactly what the offense needs for a first down.

"(It's) just noticing where the sticks are," safety JaQuez Jenkins said. "I think a lot of times we're out there, everything is moving so fast that we don't realize what the down-and-distance is. I think we get a little lackadaisical finding where the sticks are … 'Okay, it's third down.' Knowing that's a key situation, we'll be better off if we bring that aspect to our mental part of the game."

Secondary coach Rick Smith said nickel defensive back Ernie Tabuteau won't be in that role this week after missing assignments in the third-and-long package.

"We were our worst enemy," said Smith, who estimated the defense faced an extra 15 plays as a result of the third-and-long conversions.

Ball State's balanced offense has been dangerous on third downs, converting 9 of 18 on Saturday in a 41-39 upset of Indiana. In the final minute, the Cardinals converted a third-and-10 to help set up the winning field goal.

USF's defense doesn't want to leave it up to defensive backs to make third-down stops — defensive tackle Cory Grissom couldn't remember a single time USF hit Rutgers' Nova. Getting pressure on the quarterback, knowing third and long is typically a passing down, could lead to not only defensive stops, but the kind of pressured throws that can lead to turnovers as well.

"It all goes back to affecting the quarterback, getting pressure on the quarterback," end Tevin Mims said. "Third down, our D-ends and D-line, we have to get home to the quarterback. We have to emphasize that this week."

South Florida Bulls defense focuses on stopping third-down conversions 09/20/12 [Last modified: Thursday, September 20, 2012 10:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Peter Budaj, Lightning lose to Devils in shootout; Nikita Kucherov scores

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — For Peter Budaj, Tuesday's season debut had a shaky start.

    The Lightning’s Vladislav Namestnikov, right, battles Damon Severson for the puck.
  2. Lightning's Steve Yzerman enjoying Nikita Kucherov's scoring run

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov, of Russia, celebrates after scoring a goal on the New Jersey Devils during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
  3. Bucs journal: Offense needs to get off to a faster start

    Bucs

    TAMPA — The past two games have seen the Bucs offense muster furious rallies in the fourth quarter of losses, with 229 yards against the Patriots and a franchise-record 27 points against the Cardinals.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field before an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017.
  4. NFL players, owners hold 'constructive' talks on issues

    Bucs

    NEW YORK — NFL players and owners met Tuesday to discuss social issues, a session Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross called "constructive" and Colts defensive back Darius Butler termed "positive."

    A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on Tuesday in New York City.  Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing.
 [Getty Images]
  5. Lightning's Steve Yzerman: Nikita Kucherov 'wants to be great'

    Blogs

    If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Nikita Kucherov joined Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Keith Tkachuk as the only players in the last 30 years to score a goal in each of his team's first six games.