TAMPA — As critical as coach Skip Holtz was initially about USF's defensive and special teams mistakes in Saturday's 52-24 win over UTEP, he said after watching game film Sunday that he might've been too hard on his players.
"It's never as bad. I think I allowed my emotions with (injured WR Terrence Mitchell) and some of the things on special teams to affect me," Holtz said. "When you win 52-24 and you walk out with a knot in your stomach, it tells you a little bit about the expectations you're building within your own program. I thought there were some great things on defense, a lot of guys flying around. I thought our front seven really played physical, played well. Made a couple of mistakes in the first half, but I thought they came back focused."
USF played without starting CB Quenton Washington, who had a lingering knee injury. Holtz said the senior captain had a virus that caused him to drop 18 pounds from Saturday to Tuesday last week. His top backup, sophomore JaQuez Jenkins, was limited to a few plays because of an injured hamstring. The hope is that both can return for Thursday's game at Pittsburgh.
Holtz's biggest frustration Saturday came from the defensive backs, but their position coach, Rick Smith, said he liked what he saw in reviewing the game, considering they played without their most experienced player.
"You take the one play George Baker gave up (a 25-yard touchdown on fourth and inches), but other than that, for his (second) start, he played really good," Smith said. "I was worried about George all week, thinking he's going to hyperventilate on me. … We get Q (Washington) back, we're going to be all right."
FEELING BETTER: Sunday brought encouraging updates on Mitchell, who was carted off and hospitalized after a helmet-to-helmet collision left him motionless in front of the USF bench. The former Hillsborough High standout was released from the hospital late Saturday night, Holtz said, and suffered a concussion but no neck injury.
"We have no idea how long that will last — he has a pretty good headache," Holtz said. "It was nice to see his smiling face. We'll proceed with extreme caution."
STARTING EARLY: Knowing this would be a short week, the staff spent an hour each day last week starting a game plan for Pittsburgh, and instead of recruiting Friday, coaches worked on the Panthers. Sunday's practice was rained out, and the Bulls will practice for the next three days.