TAMPA — With no traditional running game and consistent pressure on QB B.J. Daniels in Thursday's loss to Rutgers, offensive line was a concern for USF coach Skip Holtz, who hopes for better play Saturday at Ball State.
"We did not play very well up front on the offensive line," Holtz said. "We only had about 20 called runs because we couldn't do anything consistently. It wouldn't bother me if it were all physical breakdowns, but they were mental breakdowns as much as anything, uncharacteristic things we didn't do all week. We got out there in the game and it was like everything was forgotten."
Only one of USF's first starting linemen graded out as a winner when game tape was reviewed. USF didn't give up a sack, but Daniels was on the run too often. Holtz said the spotlight of a national game on ESPN may have been a factor with his less experienced linemen.
"I talked about the circus outside the lines. It's easy to get caught up in the fans and the crowd and the television cameras, everybody texting telling you they're going to see you on TV tonight," Holtz said. "You've got that little Sky Cam zooming all over on top of your head. There are a lot of things there to take your focus away."
Holtz said the consistent pressure impacted Daniels; he had three interceptions, but two were on passes deflected by their targets to defenders. And because Rutgers didn't have to blitz to get that pressure, there weren't as many openings to be found in the passing game.
"I think (Daniels) really did a nice job of getting away from (pressure), and I think we're being a little bit unfair to him, asking him to play quarterback with that much pressure coming at him all the time," Holtz said. "He's trying to keep his eyes downfield. We had way too much penetration in the offensive line. They didn't have to blitz to get there. They got there with a four-man rush."
THIS AND THAT: Senior CB George Baker was picked as the team's defensive player of the week after getting four of the team's six pass breakups.… Holtz said G Mark Popek (ankle) and S Mark Joyce (undisclosed) didn't practice Sunday but should be back for the next practice on Tuesday and should be healthy for Ball State. RB Marcus Shaw, who has missed the past two games with an ankle sprain, has not returned to practice. … If USF was taking Ball State lightly, that went away Saturday when the Cardinals beat Indiana on a field goal as time expired.