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USF seeks to end three-game skid with trip to Rutgers

TAMPA — Searching for random omens that USF football's three-game losing streak could end on Saturday at Rutgers?

By the time the Bulls kick off in Piscataway, they will have matched the longest in-season drought without a win in the program's 15-year history at 42 days, going back to a home win against UTEP on Sept. 24.

The last time that happened was 2005, when the Bulls won at home on Sept. 24, then didn't win again until Nov. 5 … at Rutgers.

Both of USF's bye weeks this season have come in the middle of the season, so the Bulls will finish the season the same way they started it, with a blitz of five games in 26 days. That don't-blink finish makes it all the more important that USF find some positive momentum Saturday.

"Let's get it rolling, kind of like we did at the beginning of the season," said coach Skip Holtz, who has never lost four in a row in 12 seasons as a head coach.

USF's past two trips to Piscataway have not gone well. The 2007 loss started USF's fall from No. 2 in the national rankings, and the 2009 loss was the first regular-season shutout in USF's history, a 31-0 loss.

The Bulls won 28-27 in Tampa last season to end a four-game losing streak to the Scarlet Knights.

The main thing USF's players are concerned about is getting back on track and getting bowl eligible — the Bulls need two wins in their final five games to extend their bowl streak to a seventh year.

"Bowl eligible. That's the main thing," RB Darrell Scott said. "We've got to start with this team in New Jersey."

NO RETURNS ALLOWED: USF's best unit this season has to be its punt coverage, which is on pace to set an NCAA record. The Bulls lead the nation in allowing a total of minus-2 yards on punt returns this season — of 30 total punts, opponents have returned just five, losing yards on those efforts.

The NCAA record for fewest punt-return yards allowed in a season? That's 2, set by Miami in 1989. The Bulls could tie the NCAA record for fewest punt returns in a season, set three times, most recently by Florida in 2009.

P Justin Brockhaus-Kann is averaging just 39.3 yards, but his net punting is strong, thanks to the poor returns and just three touchbacks compared to eight punts downed inside the 20-yard line.

THIS AND THAT: Senior 1B Todd Brazeal, a key middle-of-the-order bat for 2012, is recovering from surgery on his right knee, though baseball coach Lelo Prado said he should recover in time for the season opener in February. … Of the 11 teams reported to be in the new Big East football lineup, USF ranks second this season in average home attendance at an announced 44,779. Only Louisville (47,981) is higher. … Holtz should have four January enrollees, USF's most ever — grayshirt Alex Mut, plus three commitments in QB Tyler Cameron, CB Chris Bivins and DT J.T. Hamilton.

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

USF seeks to end three-game skid with trip to Rutgers 11/01/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 10:05am]
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