TAMPA — Veteran DE Ryne Giddins and DL Elkino Watson say the USF coaching staff has routinely gotten in the face of the defensive players since their last game two weeks ago, with valid reason.
While the offense appeared to come together in the 35-23 loss to Houston, the defense came apart. The Cougars had eight plays of 15 or more yards, generating considerable yardage after initial contact.
USF coach Willie Taggart cited a lack of effort, in the sense the Bulls failed to consistently converge on the ball.
"Just us not being disciplined on defense," Giddins said. "I think we took our foot off the pedal a little bit, and stuff like that can't happen."
Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan said surrendering big plays remains the "Achilles' heel" of his unit, fifth in the American Athletic Conference in total defense (379.5 yards per game).
"We've got four weeks to really make a statement and to do some things, and we've made some objectives for ourselves, and we're going to hold ourselves to it," he said. "And that's one of them: getting to the football."
UF: Bracing for QB
GAINESVILLE — South Carolina QB Connor Shaw struggled as a passer in his past two meetings against the Gators, held to 153 yards and one interception combined, but he has found his groove this season heading into Saturday's game.
Shaw has thrown 18 touchdowns — seven in his past two games — against only one interception this season. The 6-foot-1 senior is a dual threat, with 375 yards and three rushing touchdowns in 2013.
"Stop him? No one's really been able to stop him," Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. "There's ways to limit him and limit the big plays. Connor's a great player, great competitor. We've faced him now for a couple years. He can beat you at both throwing the ball and running the ball. He's really good when plays break down. We have to do a good job of constricting the pocket and keeping him inside."
Injury update: Coach Will Muschamp said QB Tyler Murphy (shoulder sprain) would try to throw in practice Wednesday but remains a game-time decision for Saturday. … LT D.J. Humphries (sprained knee) is out, and CB Marcus Roberson (ankle) is day to day. … LBs Antonio Morrison (torn MCL in knee) and Jeremi Powell (torn ACL in knee) had surgery Wednesday. Morrison is expected to be able to return in the spring.
Landon Watnick, Times correspondent
UM: Secondary battles
CORAL GABLES — After back-to-back losses, Hurricanes coach Al Golden said he wants to see increased competition at cornerback and safety, especially since this is the first point in the season all the safeties have been healthy.
Deon Bush and Kacy Rodgers were listed as co-starters for this week at one safety spot, with Rayshawn Jenkins and A.J. Highsmith listed as co-starters at the other. Meanwhile, Tracy Howard and Antonio Crawford were listed as co-starters at left cornerback, and Ladarius Gunter and Artie Burns were listed as co-starters at right corner.
"The first time all season that all of them are available to us," Golden said. "There's competition there now because of it. … We're nowhere near where we need to be in terms of depth."
South Florida Sun Sentinel
UCF: LB expelled
ORLANDO — LB Willie Mitchell, arrested and charged with driving under the influence Sept. 7, was expelled from school for the rest of the semester by the student conduct board, UCF coach George O'Leary said. Mitchell had been suspended indefinitely from the team pending the outcome of the case.
"We're making sure he's taking the right hours off-campus so he'll be back next semester," O'Leary said.