TAMPA — A month into the season, the sleek, power-based offense Willie Taggart promoted as "fast" and "exciting" hasn't lived up to the latter adjective.
But entering Saturday's homecoming game against Syracuse, the Bulls coach is neither conceding — nor overhauling — anything.
"Obviously we haven't provided that (fun and excitement) if you watch what we're doing," Taggart said Monday. "But I don't think we're far from doing it."
Taggart's conservative approach in the second half of Friday's 24-17 loss at Memphis — in which USF found the red zone only once — elicited periodic choruses of boos from the Raymond James Stadium crowd of 14,305. Taggart assumed blame for not calling more plays to loosen up Memphis' defense after halftime.
But the Bulls will remain a run-first team, he said Monday. Entering Saturday's game against an Orange squad that already has posted 11 sacks, the Bulls rank 28th nationally in rush offense (210.5 ypg) and 107th in pass offense (166.3).
"Some of (the receivers), the execution is not there, and we're not this team that just drops back and throws it to our receivers 80 times a game. That's not what we do," Taggart said.
"We've got some talented running backs that's pretty much the strength of our team, and we're gonna utilize those guys and try to throw the ball off the run. That's who we are and who we're gonna be."
THE 'NOON' NORMAL: The American Athletic Conference announced Monday the Bulls' Oct. 17 game at Connecticut will kick off at noon, marking the third time this season USF has kicked off at noon or earlier. ESPNU or ESPNews will televise the game.
SYRACUSE HEALING: Freshman quarterback Eric Dungey and hybrid back Ervin Philips are expected back in the lineup Saturday at USF. Dungey was injured last month in a jarring helmet-to-helmet hit against Central Michigan. Philips had knee surgery for a slight tear and has missed three games.
Around the nation
NO. 1 OHIO ST.: Receiver Corey Smith will miss the rest of the season after being carted off the field with a leg injury during Saturday's game. Coach Urban Meyer said the injury was similar to the one that sidelined starting receiver Noah Brown before the season.
NO. 6 CLEMSON: Junior receiver Mike Williams, who suffered a small fracture in his neck in the season opener, is unlikely to return this season, co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said.
NO. 18 MICHIGAN: Senior defensive end Mario Ojemudia's college career is over because of an Achilles tendon injury. Senior Royce Jenkins-Stone will start Saturday at home against No. 13 Northwestern.
NO. 19 GEORGIA: Junior linebacker Reggie Carter had surgery last week for a nagging shoulder injury and will miss the rest of the season.
ILLINOIS: Interim coach Bill Cubit said he doubts injured running back Josh Ferguson can play Saturday.
KANSAS: Quarterback Montell Cozart is out with a shoulder sprain and backup Deondre Ford is done for the season with a thumb injury, forcing freshman Ryan Willis to start Saturday against No. 3 Baylor.
KANSAS ST.: Sophomore defensive back Cre Moore was arrested early Sunday after the pickup he was driving hit a light pole in Manhattan, Kans. Moore was unhurt.
MISSISSIPPI ST.: Senior safety Kendrick Market has a torn ACL in his left knee and will miss the rest of the season.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.