TAMPA — USF coach Jeff Scott said it’s good to be tested “out of your comfort zone.”
“You don’t get better having it easy,” he said. “We want challenges. Coaches and players, all of us, we need really tough challenges.”
That won’t be a problem Saturday. USF’s opponent, No. 15 BYU, will be one of the biggest tests the Bulls have faced this season.
Big, strong, fast and disciplined, the Cougars are 3-0 this year and 14-1 since the beginning of the 2020 season. Only No. 1 Alabama has more wins (16) during that span, and BYU is one of four schools with two victories over ranked teams in 2021, beating Arizona and Arizona State.
“I would say BYU has the most difficult scheme, offense and defense, to prepare for,” Scott said. “They do so many different things, and they do them all so well.”
Then, of course, there is the challenge of simply traveling to BYU, tucked among the mountains in Provo, Utah, 4,649 feet above sea level and 2,400 miles from Tampa.
The Bulls left on Thursday, allowing for an extra day to adjust to the high altitude, temperatures (it’s about 20 to 30 degrees cooler) and two-hour time difference.
“I asked a player this week if he knew anything about high altitude, and he said, ‘That means it’s more windy, right?’” Scott said. “I said, ‘Well, there’s a little more science to it than that.’ I’m not sure if a lot of our guys know exactly where we’re going yet.”
Or how loud it is going to be when they get there. Lavell Edwards Stadium, which seats 63,470, is expected to be at full capacity.
“It will be the loudest environment we’ve played in all year,” Scott said. “When we watched the tape (of BYU’s victory over Arizona State) from the end-zone view, the camera was shaking the entire time. You also saw Arizona State had four or five false starts because they couldn’t hear the signals. Then they tried the (quarterback) clap. Then they couldn’t hear the clap. Then they tried with the hand signals. It was tough for them the whole time.”
USF (1-2) piped in artificial crowd noise during practices this week, hoping to help prepare quarterback Timmy McClain for the impending roar.
“I think it will be great for (McClain) to compete in that hostile environment,” Scott said of his true freshman, who will get his second start after leading the Bulls to a victory over Florida A&M last week. “Another chance for him to grow.”
Scott stopped short of naming McClain his season-long starter, holding to his promise of waiting to make
a decision until next week’s first American Athletic Conference game at SMU.
Across the field, first-year BYU quarterback Jaren Hall has completed 60 percent of his passes this season and averages 8.3 yards per rush, complementing a solid run game that averages 200 yards a game. USF defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer describes Hall as a faster Baker Mayfield, Scott said.
”Overall, I think BYU is further ahead than others expected them to be. Watching the video, this group is going to challenge you. That’s what we need, playing guys to give you a big challenge. We need to show progress against teams like this.”
Scott reflected back to his days as an assistant at Clemson.
“That’s where we took the next biggest step,” he said. “I felt like early on, it was all about who we were playing or was it a night game? Or was it a day game with somebody not very good? That’s where the focus was, and we played that way, up and down. Then we got to the point where none of that stuff mattered. We played the same way, regardless of the circumstances. That’s how you build consistency.”
Junior wide receiver Latrell Williams suffered a season-ending torn ACL against FAMU. This is Williams’ sixth year of college football, but with the COVID bonus year, he has the option to return in 2022. … Senior slot receiver Bryce Miller suffered an ankle injury at FAMU and is day-to-day heading into the BYU game … Defensive back Mekhi LaPoint is also questionable after a hip injury, adding more stress to an already depleted defensive secondary. Sophomore cornerback Christian Williams (ankle) is still at least a month away from returning. Safety Will Jones II (knee) is out for the season.
• • •