TAMPA — USF coach Skip Holtz has said he has won games throwing nearly every down and has also won by moving the ball almost exclusively on the ground, and the latter was certainly the case in Saturday's win against Western Kentucky.
The Bulls threw just 11 passes (while rushing 44 times) and reset the school record low with 57 passing yards, but Holtz said his offense followed its game plan well in establishing a running game.
"I didn't think our passing game was particularly sharp," he said. "We threw the interception right before half, and I just said, 'This is one of those games. Your offense isn't going to show up every week. You're not always going to throw it and catch it.' This was a game where he needed to put the hat on our most experienced players on offense, and that was with the running backs, the tight ends, the fullbacks and the offensive line. That was the game plan in the second half."
QB B.J. Daniels went 5-of-6 before an interception but gained only 32 yards. He finished 7-of-11 for those 57 yards but said he wasn't concerned about his smaller role so long as it came in a victory.
"It's fine, passing the ball 11 times. I'm just happy with the win. I wouldn't want to throw it 40 times and lose," Daniels said. "It's just extra focus and trust. That's what we practice every day, to trust each other and go out and give our best effort."
Saturday's game against Florida Atlantic could be similarly run-heavy. North Texas, which had been 0-3, beat the Owls on Saturday by rushing 54 times and passing just 15, piling up 257 yards on the ground in a 21-17 victory. The Mean Green's offensive coordinator is former Bulls assistant Mike Canales.
EXPOSED UNDERNEATH: WKU's best offensive play was the dumpoff to TE Jack Doyle, who had seven receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown. USF did a good job of containing RB Bobby Rainey, but in that focus, the Bulls left Doyle open too often, Holtz said.
"We've got to get a little better at our underneath coverage, which was exploited a little bit," Holtz said. "We were so gung-ho and we challenged our defensive line and linebackers so hard to stop the run that we were really filling inside and we got exploited a little bit. They had a nice combination there, but they did a good job of keeping them out of the end zone until the fourth quarter."
MUST STEP UP: Even with three starting receivers out with injuries Saturday, Holtz said he needs that position to step up if the Bulls want more offensive balance.
"We're a work in progress out on the perimeter," Holtz said after the game. "They played a little more man coverage, and I would too with a walk-on starting at wide receiver. We've got to be able to win outside, one-on-one. People are going to load up and say, 'Beat me at wide receiver.' "