TAMPA — As much as USF needs its upcoming bye week to heal lingering injuries, it also means the No. 10 Bulls have to go two weeks without a chance to truly put a 26-21 loss to unranked Pittsburgh behind them.
"Unfortunately we have a bye week, so it's going to be on our minds a little longer, but we're looking forward to coming back, practicing hard and going back at it," said linebacker Kion Wilson, who recovered two fumbles in Thursday's home loss.
A year ago, when the Bulls took their first loss on a Thursday night at Rutgers, the disappointment snowballed into a three-game losing streak that cost them a shot at a Big East title. That experience might help the Bulls avoid a repeat performance when they return Oct. 18 at home against Syracuse.
"Remembering what happened last year is definitely the key," senior safety Carlton Williams said.
"The Big East race … there's no telling what could happen, so from here on out, we have to play South Florida ball. (Thursday,) we didn't play the way we normally play."
The Bulls (5-1, 0-1 Big East) have struggled in three of their five games against I-A opponents, barely beating Central Florida and Florida International and losing to Pittsburgh. The offense has yet to establish an identity despite returning nearly intact from last season, and the defense has struggled with tackling and blown coverages, especially in the fourth quarter.
"You have to forget it, have to move on," defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said of the loss. "It's like when you win one, you don't get to celebrate very long, so we can't beat ourselves up too long. We go back to work and work on fundamentals for a week, then get ready for the next game."
By the time Syracuse comes to town, the Bulls could have defensive end George Selvie and tackle Terrell McClain healthy — they've played only sparingly in the past two games — as well as linebacker Brouce Mompremier, who has missed two games recovering from a traumatic neck injury.
Coach Jim Leavitt said his team has to keep perspective and remember that it still controls much of its Big East destiny.
"I'm not going to go to the grave right now," Leavitt said. "We're 5-1, we didn't play real well (Thursday) and we've got to figure out a way to play better. That's what it is."