USF women vs. Oklahoma
When/where: 8:15; UVI Sports and Fitness Center, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands
Records: USF 3-1, Oklahoma 3-0
Notable: This is the first of three games the Bulls will play in as many days at the eight-team Paradise Jam. Two, including tonight's, are against teams that reached last season's NCAA Tournament. … Bulls junior F Alisia Jenkins is averaging a double double (11.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg), and SG Courtney Williams, who recently made the Wooden Award's preseason watch list, isn't far behind (17.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg). … PG Bre Brooks, a junior college transfer, is nursing a knee injury and isn't expected to play....
From player sound bites to a school-produced video promoting Friday's game, USF has made no secret of the grudge it harbors toward geographic and conference rival UCF.
On Tuesday evening, Knights coach George O'Leary, previously unabashed in his hype of an annual Knights-Bulls game, did a mild about-face. Which is to say, he indirectly called out the Bulls for stoking the rivalry with verbal animosity.
On his weekly radio show, O'Leary made a thinly veiled reference to comments uttered earlier in the week by some Bulls players. "I think there's a certain time to open your mouth and shoot your mouth off and all that, and the beginning of the week is not the time," O'Leary said.
Presumably, he was referring to comments such as those from Bulls senior DT Todd Chandler, who called his distaste for the Knights a "natural hate." Additionally, S Nate Godwin said, "We don't like 'em, we don't like 'em at all." In the Bulls video, which can be found on the official USF football web site, the term "grudge" is emphasized.
"You try and get ready for a game, and that's where all your attention should be, getting the game plan done," O'Leary said. "And then it's like a crescendo, you get yourself ready to play and then by Friday, don't worry, we'll have some very excited UCF football players."
INJURY UPDATE: As late November goes, the Bulls appear fairly healthy across the board. On Tuesday, Coach Willie Taggart said he was hopeful LG Thor Jozwiak (concussion) will return after missing last week's loss at Memphis.
Additionally, WR Rodney Adams (groin) practiced for the fourth day in a row after missing the last two games. QB Mike White, who said he hyper-extended his left knee at Memphis, wore a brace but has been the named the starter for Friday.
"Last week's game was a little physical and we've got some bumps and bruises, typical this time of year," Taggart said. "But we've got to suck it up and fight through it."
ODDS AND ENDS: Backup QB Steven Bench missed Wednesday's practice to attend the funeral of his maternal grandmother, who passed away Monday. Bench was expected back from south Georgia on Wednesday evening. ... Every senior in the program, including trainers and managers, took a final shot at a tackling dummy Wednesday in what Taggart referred to as the "last tackle."
TAMPA — USF's deficiencies in experience and numbers might grow more glaring as autumn segues to winter. But five games into this season of transition, it's clear the Bulls lack neither fortitude nor a flair for drama.
Trailing Hofstra by 11 with 3:59 to play, the Bulls (4-1) scored 18 of the final 24 to rally for a 71-70 triumph Tuesday night before a small but strident Sun Dome audience of 3,228....
For at least a couple of minutes Tuesday, Willie Taggart's final game-week news conference sounded similar to the first.
The subject: USF's quarterback derby, which has stretched from furlongs to fortnights to a full autumn.
"When you have a quarterback, very talented and a great leader, great competitor, you give yourself a chance to win," Taggart said. "I feel like we have those guys. Now it's up to them to solidify that, to separate themselves."...
A look at UCF, whom the Bulls face Friday at Raymond James Stadium
Record: 7-3, 5-1 American Athletic Conference (Wins -- Bethune-Cookman, 41-7; Houston, 17-12; BYU, 31-24 in OT; Tulane, 20-13; Temple, 34-14; Tulsa, 31-7; SMU, 53-7; Losses -- Penn State, 26-24; Missouri, 38-10; UConn, 37-29)
Coach: George O'Leary (11th season, 79-59; 18th season overall, 131-92)
The breakdown: UCF must win to stay in contention for the American Athletic Conference title. .... While arguably not as skilled as the 2013 team, these Knights are more seasoned, especially on defense. Eight projected defensive starters are seniors or fourth-year juniors. ... The Knights rank
fourth nationally in pass defense (163.3 ypg) and first in pass-efficiency defense (97.47), led by sophomore CB Jacoby Glenn (six INTs). ... Offensively, the Knights have totaled at least 400 yards in four consecutive games, but three of those have been against Tulsa, UConn and SMU, and the Knights lost to the Huskies. In that same three-contest stretch, Knights quarterbacks have thrown as many picks (seven) as TDs.
Odds and ends: UCF has won 13 consecutive non-Saturday games. ... The player-coach connections in this series are plenteous. Among them -- O'Leary and Bulls defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan worked on Georgia Tech coach Bobby Ross' staff from 1988-91. ... The bay area players on UCF'sroster are twins Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin (Lakewood), C Aaron Evans (Armwood), QB Pete DiNovo (East Lake), DB Kyle Gibson (Armwood), DB Brendin Straubel (Jefferson), TE Zack Laurinaitis (Countryside), OL Chris Larsen (Palm Harbor University) and DL Tony Guerad (Tampa Bay Tech).
Taggart's take: "They're a veteran football team, a senior-dominant football team. ... And not only a senior-dominant football team but a football team that knows how to win, that has played a lot together. ... It's a football team where you can't beat yourself, you can't make mistakes, you
can't turn the ball over, and you've got to score touchdowns when you're in the red zone."
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 .
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....