TAMPA — As if losing a conference home opener isn't hard enough, USF faces the challenge this week of putting it behind them to prepare for a trip to West Virginia.
And the Bulls have five days to do it.
USF coach Skip Holtz said there isn't a lot of time to think about the 13-9 loss Saturday at home to Syracuse — the Big East's worst team in the past five years — as it faces the toughest test of the Big East schedule Thursday in front of a national audience on ESPN at West Virginia, the league's team to beat.
"We're two days short in preparation," Holtz said after Saturday's loss. "We have to travel a day. So we really don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves. We have to turn and pick ourselves up."
The Bulls are 3-2 against the Mountaineers. However, senior center Sampson Genus, who had never lost to the Orange in his career before Saturday, said he thinks the most important thing the team needs this week is a change in attitude.
"We need an attitude where we just want to go out and take it because West Virginia is a good team," he said.
Holtz will have his first attempt at ending a USF trend in recent years: losing conference games in bulk. USF has fallen into mid conference swoons the last three seasons. Last year, it was three losses in four games after beating Syracuse in the conference opener. The Bulls can't let that happen again this year, defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said.
"We have to make sure we don't get beat twice," he said. "We have to make sure we go back to work and get ready for West Virginia. … Everybody's hurt. Losing stinks."
Senior safety Mistral Raymond said losing early in the conference schedule could be a positive for the team.
"It could be good to get that out early and humble the guys a little bit," he said. "That's what we have to go off of right now: be humble, accept it and work like we've never worked before."
To do that, USF senior outside linebacker Sabbath Joseph said, the players can't think about the loss.
"It's not hard; you have to put it behind you," he said. "You can't mull over it because we have a big game Thursday against West Virginia. It's another conference game. If we go out there thinking about this (loss), I bet you we'll lose."