TAMPA — His method of self-punishment involved a DVR and a remote. Midnight had made its cameo hours before, but Lamar Robbins didn't care. He had lost track of time watching himself lose track of Breshad Perriman.
Sequestering himself in a Selmon Athletics Center film room upon returning from his team's 23-20 loss to UCF, Robbins kept rewinding and re-living the most excruciating play of his fledgling college career. For USF's freshman cornerback, the effect seemed as hypnotic as it was horrifying....
TAMPA — Sophomore QB Mike White will make his 10th start of the season, and second in a row against UCF, when the Bulls host the Knights on Friday, coach Willie Taggart said.
White (21-for-34, 244 yards, no TDs, no INTs) said he tweaked an ankle and mildly hyper-extended a knee while being sacked late in the third quarter of Saturday's 31-20 loss at Memphis, but insisted afterward he was fine....
Sophomore Mike White will make his 10th start of the season, and second in a row against UCF, when the Bulls host the Knights on Friday, Coach Willie Taggart said.
White (21-for-35, 244 yards, no TDs, no turnovers) said he tweaked an ankle and mildly hyper-extended a knee while being sacked late in the third quarter of Saturday's 31-20 loss at Memphis, but insisted afterward he was fine.
Benched during an Oct. 24 loss at Cincinnati, he reassumed the starting role Saturday while freshman Quinton Flowers dealt with family commitments stemming from the murder of his half-brother on Nov. 13. Flowers attended Bradley Holt's funeral in Miami on Saturday morning, and arrived in Memphis about an hour before kickoff.
"Mike White did a good job of coming back and getting his confidence back and playing with confidence," Taggart said on the American Athletic Conference coaches teleconference Monday.
"And I thought Steven Bench (6-for-11, 57 yards, one TD) came in and did some good things as well when Mike went down. I think Quinton (two carries, 4 yards) just had a lot of things going on with him the day of, the funeral and long travel and a lot of emotions going on."...
The question has consumed a whole college football demographic, eliciting debate both healthy and heated. From sports bars to cyberspace, the topic perpetuates, gaining steam that has sent it barreling into a defining weekend.
Has USF really improved from 2013 to '14?
The answer could arrive Friday, when the Bulls (4-7, 3-4 American Athletic Conference) host UCF (7-3, 5-1) in their season finale. A victory against a bowl-eligible rival, and few can argue the Bulls took a significant stride from the 2-10 debacle of last autumn. A loss, and the debate will rage.
To this point, the answer depends on each individual's criteria.
If it's sheer wins and losses, the Bulls have doubled their win total from '13, but the triumphs have come against one Division I-AA team, and three Division I programs with a combined record of 4-27.
If it's statistics, well, the Bulls have progressed in some areas (i.e. offensive production) and regressed in others (i.e. defense). As for scheme and strategy? Deliberations will rage as to how the quarterbacks were employed, and whether the switch to the 3-4 was ill-advised or borne of necessity.
"Our program is progressing well. Not as fast as others expect it to, but it's moving in the right direction," Coach Willie Taggart said after Saturday's 31-20 loss to Memphis. "We've got a lot of young guys playing and helping our football team out that's only gonna get better, and we've got to go out and continue to recruit well and continue to build our program like we all want it.
"Look at the team we played today, they were in the same situation we're in (3-9 in '13) and things changed for them and it will change for us as well."
What's certain to change -- perhaps drastically -- is the perception of this season if the Bulls prevail Friday. Until then, and perhaps afterward, the deliberations will percolate.
Progression or Regression?
A statistical look at the current Bulls compared to this time last season (national rankings in parentheses).
2013: 98.2 ypg (115)
2014: 117.3 ypg (109)
2013: 165.2 ypg (109)
2014: 196.9 ypg (91)
2013: 263.7 ypg (120)
2014: 314.2 ypg (116)
2013: 13.9 ppg (118)
2014: 18.7 ppg (114)
2013: 142.6 ypg (31)
2014: 186.4 ypg (88)
Pass Efficiency Defense
2013: 133.29 (84)
2014: 143.39 (106)
2013: 355.8 (30)
2014: 412.5 (77)
2013: 28.9 ppg (76)
2014: 28.0 ppg (75)...
Because no highly-ranked team had the decency to get upset Saturday, the attention of most pundits naturally shifted to style points.
It's one criterion I can't stand.
If Alabama had eked its way past Western Carolina, amassing flags and fumbles in the process, the Tide might get demoted on my ballot today. Otherwise, I'm not penalizing, say, an unbeaten team (i.e. FSU) for outlasting a quality opponent (i.e. Boston College) in less-than-stellar conditions in late November.
The only tremor on my ballot occurred at the bottom, where Ole Miss plummeted from 12th to 25th after its third consecutive loss to a Division I team. Elsewhere, Minnesota replaces Nebraska after a solid victory in Lincoln, and Arkansas makes its top-25 debut while USC bows out.
4. Ohio State
5. Mississippi State
9. Michigan State
10. Kansas State
13. Arizona State
18. Georgia Tech
21. Colorado State
25. Ole Miss...
Even as the curtain sets on USF's season, the tight end position is making a curtain call.
Question is, does Mike McFarland have one more encore-worthy performance in him?
The 6-foot-5 Blake High alumnus, seemingly absent for certain stretches of 2014, had four receptions for a career-best 64 yards in Saturday's 31-20 loss to Memphis. Three occurred on third down, all of which the Bulls converted....
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The rookie season of Marlon Mack got a little more auspicious and historic Saturday at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
With a 4-yard gain late in the second quarter, the freshman from Sarasota recorded the fourth 1,000-yard season in program history. Mack, 97 yards shy of 1,000 entering Saturday, finished with 102 yards on 16 carries.
He gained 75 on a touchdown burst off the left side on the second quarter's opening play from scrimmage, when it appeared he didn't get touched. "He didn't," TE Mike McFarland said....
Today: USF vs. N.C. State
When/where: 4; PNC Arena, Raleigh, N.C.
TV/radio: ESPNU; 98.7-FM
Records: USF 3-0, N.C. State 3-0
Notable: A measuring-stick game for the Bulls, seeking their second consecutive 4-0 start. The Wolfpack lost 2014 ACC player of the year T.J. Warren to the NBA but return six of its top nine players from last season's NCAA Tournament team. … USF, the second-youngest team in Division I, took a major stride with Thursday's 73-71 overtime win at UAB, getting eight OT points from junior PG Anthony Collins (16 points, five rebounds). … These teams already have a common opponent; USF topped Jackson State by nine on Nov. 16, two days after the Pack trounced JSU by 35. … Bulls freshman C Ruben Guerrero (groin), who hasn't played this season, remains day to day....
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Roughly 25 hours after landing Friday afternoon in the land of pork ribs and Presley Inc., there was USF, still hanging around like dry-rub aftertaste.
Trailing by 15 with two minutes to play in the third quarter, the Bulls faced third and goal from the Memphis 9-yard line.
"We sensed a comeback," said safety Jamie Byrd, whose team already had rallied twice on the road in 2014....
Today: USF women vs. UNC Asheville
When/where: 2, Sun Dome
Records: UNC Asheville 0-2, USF 2-1
Notable: The Bulls' home opener is their last contest before next week's three-game Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. … Nagging injuries and early foul trouble conspired to thwart the Bulls in Wednesday night's 85-67 loss at No. 9 Maryland. PG Laura Marcos Canedo and C Katelyn Weber, who combined for 21 minutes due to foot injuries against the Terrapins, won't play today. … The Bulldogs have averaged only 57 points in losses to East Tennessee State and North Carolina A&T, and have a turnover-to-assist ratio of more than 2-to-1....
Florida vs. Eastern Kentucky
noon, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville
TV/radio: SEC alternate (see box, 5C); 620-AM
Weather: Cloudy, high 60s, 25 percent chance of rain, wind 12-13 mph
UCF vs. SMU
noon, Bright House Stadium, Orlando
Line: UCF by 28
Weather: Cloudy, low 70s, 55 percent chance of rain, wind 14-15 mph...
USF at Memphis, 4, ESPNews, 98.7-FM, 1010-AM
The Bulls (4-6, 3-3 American Athletic Conference) will employ their third starting quarterback in as many games if sophomore Mike White gets the nod. White came off the bench to help USF avoid one of the program's most embarrassing losses with two late touchdown passes last week at SMU, but coach Willie Taggart hasn't named a starter against Memphis (7-3, 5-1). Look for a shake-up on the offensive line, where senior Quinterrius Eatmon and junior Brynjar Gudmundsson have switched positions to right tackle and right guard, respectively. Additionally, LG Thor Jozwiak (unspecified injury) is day to day. Second-leading receiver Rodney Adams (groin) is out. The Bulls are seeking a third conference road victory, which would equal the 11-year-old program record. A victory would be Memphis' fifth in a row, the program's longest streak since 2003....
TAMPA — Lost amid Saturday night's surreal finish at SMU was the start, which featured a handful of new faces for USF.
Freshman S Tajee Fullwood — a Tampa Bay Tech alumnus — made his inaugural collegiate start along with sophomore DT Derrick Calloway and CB Deatrick Nichols as a nickel back.
Calloway stepped in for veteran Elkino Watson, who didn't make the trip due to an unspecified team-rules violation. The others were promoted based on performance, coaches said....
USF at Alabama-Birmingham
When/where: 8; Bartow Arena, Birmingham, Ala.
Records: USF 2-0, UAB 1-1
Notable: Seeking their second straight 3-0 start, the Bulls embark on a two-game road swing that ends Sunday at N.C. State. … USF's first legitimate taste of adversity could arrive tonight; it has trailed 47 seconds in its first two games. … Despite a mild right knee ailment, sophomore PF Chris Perry totaled 39 points and 17 rebounds in the first two games. He said he's now 100 percent. … Look for an interesting tussle in the paint, where Perry and burly 6-foot-11 junior Jaleel Cousins will encounter 6-8 UAB sophomore Tosin Mehinti (17 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.0 bpg). … UAB collected 66 points in the paint in Monday's 94-81 romp of Young Harris. … Bulls freshman C Ruben Guerrero, sidelined the first two games with an injured groin, traveled with the team but is day to day....