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Loss shows Bulls, Taggart have long way to go

Coach Willie Taggart says the Bulls have enough talent but not enough winners.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Coach Willie Taggart says the Bulls have enough talent but not enough winners.

TAMPA

He should have blamed Skip Holtz, of course.

Shortly after finding his way to the postgame news conference, Willie Taggart, the new guy in town, should have shaken his head and talked about the recruiting classes that had come before him. He should have reminded everyone that, really, that's why he's here. He should have pointed out how much work there is to do to get the Holtz out of the uniforms.

At that point, Taggart should have added, "I just got here."

That would have been the way to play it, all right. That way, maybe none of the sludge would have wound up on his shoes. That way, maybe no one would blame Taggart for the most embarrassing loss in USF football history.

Besides, what are they going to do to Holtz? Fire him again?

Why, without Holtz, you might have to suggest that Taggart has some explaining to do after losing his debut 53-21 Saturday to (get this) McNeese State, a I-AA team out of Lake Charles, La. Hah. On this night, McNeese looked more like LSU as it chewed up the Bulls.

Go back 35 years and it is believed to be the worst a I-AA team has ever beaten a major I-A.

For the record, Taggart didn't blame Holtz. He absorbed this, and good that he did.

"Awful," was a word Taggart used. "Nightmare," was another one. "Mentally fragile," he said of his team. "We had some players who quit," he said.

For Taggart, it was a stunning sight. He had expected his team to play well. Now you wonder if there is enough talent on hand.

"I think there is," Taggart said. "We just don't have enough winners on this team. We have talent enough, but mentally we're not where we need to be."

And so it went. Taggart kept talking about how his team didn't respond to adversity.

Fifty-three points.

Really.

As coaching debuts go, this one was sloppy and inefficient and altogether forgettable, except for the parts where you wondered if McNeese State was running up the score. By the time fans got around to booing halfway through the second quarter, you wondered what had kept them silent for so long. Perhaps it was the honeymoon period.

Or perhaps the team's quick start had fooled everyone. Heck, there at the start Taggart was a genius, and for all of one offensive play, it looked as if he had cured the Bulls.

That play, a fullback lead off left guard, was a thing of beauty. Marcus Shaw burst into the line, and daylight appeared, and he went 80 yards for a score. At that moment, you could envision a lot of Bulls runners being chased by a lot of opposing safeties.

Soon afterward, however, the Bulls started to unravel. They snapped a ball high over the punter's head for a safety. They fumbled at their own 5 to gift-wrap a McNeese State touchdown. They threw a pick-six.

They looked worse than they looked a year ago, when, to be honest, they looked as bad as they have ever looked.

What? Was one recruiting class supposed to fix all that? Joke as hard as you wish about Holtz, but recruiting was one of his problems. This just helped to show how bad it had become. The Bulls, in their current state, seem to be a flawed team.

But the truth is, this was a disappointing start for Taggart, too. Since arriving here, Taggart has often said he expects to compete for championships this year. Sadly, the rest of us had believed him. If nothing else, we believed his team could keep McNeese State somewhere shy of 40 points. After all, McNeese State is a team that lost to Southeastern Louisiana, Central Arkansas, Sam Houston State and the University of Texas-San Antonio last year. Whee.

Against the Bulls, however, McNeese State was the team that looked as if it came from a Division I-A conference. It was calm; it was controlled. And whenever the Cowboys had an opportunity, they took advantage of it.

USF? Not so much.

As disappointing as it was, one game is far too soon to make any judgments about Taggart except this one: He has a long way to go. He's going to have to develop his own quarterback, and he's going to have to get the running backs he needs in place. His defense is going to have to get a lot more vicious.

Along the way, Taggart may wonder whether he had a quick-enough trigger finger for the Bulls. Starting quarterback Matt Floyd struggled all night, throwing two interceptions. Replacement Bobby Eveld, on the other hand, threw for two touchdowns and kept his eyes downfield all night.

On this night, however, not even a nice relief job could save the Bulls from their own misery. No matter what you think of USF, shouldn't it be better than this?

All in all, you might say, it is a good thing that at least USF doesn't compete in that high-powered Southland Conference.

Otherwise, this season might really look shaky.

Loss shows Bulls, Taggart have long way to go 08/31/13 [Last modified: Sunday, September 1, 2013 12:45am]
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