TAMPA ― Maybe the late-arriving segment of USF’s home crowds, bent on maximizing every moment of tailgating, is on to something.
Aside from some neat parachute drops and other pregame pageantry, it hasn’t really missed much. The Bulls offense generally hasn’t shown up until the second quarter, or second half.
Entering Game 10, USF (4-5, 2-3) has totaled 31 first-quarter points this season, second-fewest in the American Athletic Conference. Only Tulsa (27) has been less productive in the opening period.
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Naturally, first-year coordinator Kerwin Bell finds the tardy arrivals far more frustrating than fashionable.
“I’ve been preaching to our offense all week, we’ve got to start fast,” Bell said Wednesday. “If you look at the games where we didn’t start fast, we sort of got into a lull and we lost confidence, and we can’t have that.”
The lulls have been most prevalent at home. Four of the Bulls’ six scoreless first periods have occurred at Raymond James Stadium. In three of those four contests (Wisconsin, SMU, Temple), they failed to score in the first half.
Another sluggish start Saturday against No. 17 Cincinnati (8-1, 5-0) almost certainly will put USF one defeat from bowl ineligibility.
“We’ve got to go out when practice starts, just like it’s the game, and we’ve got to be ready to go and we’ve got to be successful early,” said Bell, adding this week’s practices have featured a “great pace.”
“And I think if we do, we’ve got a chance to put Cincinnati on their heels a little bit.”
In other USF news, Bell said he’s not optimistic of either left tackle Donovan Jennings (ankle) or wildcat quarterback Jah’Quez Evans (concussion protocol) returning to the lineup this week.
Jennings was injured in last weekend’s 17-7 loss to Temple, and Evans exited late in the first half of the Oct. 26 win at East Carolina.
“(Right tackle) Marcus Norman might go over and play some of the left side a little bit,” Bell said. “We’ve got (Jarrett) Hopple that came in and played there, and he’ll play some. So we’re just trying to find the right combinations.”
Bursting (or stumbling) out of the block
A look at the first-quarter point totals of every American Athletic Conference team
East Carolina: 72