TAMPA — If there's a time for coach Skip Holtz to pull double duty trying to rebuild USF's program while making a run at a Big East championship, it may be this season.
The Big East hasn't lived up to expectations in nonconference play, going 2-10 against BCS conference opponents and falling in seven attempts against ranked teams. As the Bulls — whose wins have been at home against I-AA Stony Brook, Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic (combined records of 2-12) — prepare for their conference opener against Syracuse on Saturday, Holtz said he's interested to see how his team will stack up.
"I don't think (nonconference losses) have been restricted to the Big East. … We've lost some close games as a league," he said after Sunday's practice. "I don't think it looks very good for the league when you look at the win-loss records and that some of the teams we've lost to were non-BCS opponents.
"But I think we'll learn a lot about this league as we continue to go through it. I'm anxious to kind of see where this league is. I haven't lined up and played against Pittsburgh and Connecticut and Cincinnati and a lot of these teams, so I'm not only excited to see where we match up, but how the whole league plays out."
RB, WR expected to play: Holtz sat sophomore RB Demetris Murray and sophomore WR Sterling Griffin on Saturday against FAU as a precaution because their ankles hadn't healed. Holtz expects both to play against Syracuse.
Junior S Jerrell Young is the main injury concern. Young, who did not practice Sunday, limped off the field after an ankle injury in the first half against FAU and did not return. Holtz said more will be known about his status later in the week.
Wrinkle led to block, record: Holtz said the Bulls used a new look on special teams that helped junior Quenton Washington come off the edge against FAU and get USF's second punt block returned for a touchdown this season — matching the school record set in 2001.
"We felt like we could get it," he said, praising special teams coach Vernon Hargreaves. "We felt like we could turn and get it off the edge, so we put together a little scheme for it."
In the season opener, walk-on Chris Lane blocked a punt and recovered in the end zone.