Charlie Strong still not happy with USF’s start against Illinois

Strong's biggest concern for the Bulls through three games is their penalties.
Published Sept. 17, 2018|Updated Sept. 17, 2018

TAMPA — USF coach Charlie Strong was obviously happy with how his Bulls rebounded Saturday to turn a 16-7 halftime deficit into a 25-19 road win over Illinois. But he was displeased with the first-half performance that got them in that hole to begin with.

So after watching the film, was it as bad as he thought after the game?

"Yeah, it was," Strong said Monday during his weekly news conference.

Specifically, Strong said the run defense got out of its gaps once or twice to help spring big Illini runs. The offense struggled to find its rhythm and the defense struggled to get off the field.

He also said Tuesday's practice was "awful," which meant the Bulls had to spend Wednesday fixing mistakes it should have corrected the day before.

"Now you get into the game, and you can't go out there — you can't sleepwalk through a first half when you know you're going to get somebody's best, and you're on the road…" Strong said. "You don't walk into it and bring your helmet out there and say, 'Here we come.' We're not that good yet."

A faster start will be critical Saturday when the Bulls open AAC play at home against an East Carolina team that knocked off North Carolina two weeks ago.

Some other quick hits:

A quarter of the way through the season, Strong said his biggest concern is penalties. The Bulls committed 14 at Soldier Field, and only 13 teams in the country have committed more all season than USF (26). "You don't ever want to be a penalized team, and that all comes through discipline," Strong said.

Strong said RB Duran Bell (ankle) ran yesterday. His status will be decided later in the week.

QB Blake Barnett was named the AAC's co-offensive player of the week after passing for 411 yards and leading the Bulls' comeback with two touchdowns and 172 yards in the fourth quarter.