Injuries to top playmakers a big factor in USF Bulls' slump

TAMPA — Many factors have contributed to the continuing downward spiral of USF football. Friday's loss at Cincinnati showed how much the Bulls are missing the offensive playmakers lost to injuries in the past two months.

Two games into this season, USF had two wins, along with six touchdowns of 35 yards or longer. Since then, the Bulls have gone 1-8, with one touchdown of 35 yards or longer.

"The thing that's coming to light is we're not explosive right now," offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said after Friday's 27-10 loss, in which USF's longest offensive play was just 21 yards. "The ability to make a chunk of yards … is what I think was lacking. We've got to get a little more playmaking ability, a little more explosiveness out of our skill guys."

USF's longest offensive play in November? That was a 32-yard catch by 266-pound FB/TE Jeff Hawkins. In losing QB B.J. Daniels, RB Lindsey Lamar and WRs Sterling Griffin and Derrick Hopkins, the Bulls have also lost sight of the end zone.

The Bulls have gone from scoring mostly in sevens to settling for field goals. In the first seven games, USF's offense had 23 touchdowns and six field goals; in the past four, the Bulls have five touchdowns and 11 field goals.

"That's what it comes down to, the kind of season we've had," said senior RB Demetris Murray, the team's leading rusher on Friday and for the season. "When our number is called, we haven't been able to make plays when we had to."

LOCAL SUPPORT: The city of Temple Terrace on Tuesday honored Skip Holtz, with Mayor Frank Chillura proclaiming the day as "Louis 'Skip' Holtz Day'' in thanks for the Bulls coach having his weekly radio show at the Beef 'O' Brady's in Temple Terrace.

MOVING ON: The fundraising efforts of USF's athletic department will have a new leader in January, as Vicki Mitchell, the Bulls' associate athletic director for development, is leaving for a job with the USF Foundation, which coordinates philanthropy for the university. Mitchell has worked in USF's athletic department since 2002.

THIS AND THAT: USF football ranks third in the Big East in announced attendance entering Saturday's final home game, behind Rutgers and Louisville. There has been a large disparity between the announced and actual attendance because of FSU fans who bought season tickets as their only option to get seats for the Sept. 29 game in Tampa. … ESPN.com rated Stan Heath's six-player basketball recruiting class as the fifth-best in the Big East for 2013 and 26th nationally. … FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, soon to be the head coach at Kentucky, got his coaching start as defensive backs coach on Jim Leavitt's original USF staff in 1996, leaving before the Bulls' first game in 1997.

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@tampabay.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.

Injuries to top playmakers a big factor in USF Bulls' slump 11/27/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 10:20pm]

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