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South Florida (1-4) at Connecticut (0-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 12, 12 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Rentschler Field (38,066) -- East Hartford, Connecticut. Television: SNY. Home Record: USF 1-3, UConn 0-3. Away Record: USF 0-1, UConn 0-1. Neutral Record: USF 0-0, UConn 0-0. Conference Record: USF 1-0, UConn 0-0. Series Record: UConn leads, 5-4.
GAME NOTES: Coming off their first win of the season the South Florida Bulls take a shot at a winning streak when they visit the winless Connecticut Huskies in an American Athletic Conference bout at Rentschler Field.
The Willie Taggart era at USF was off to a rough start before this past weekend, with the Bulls sitting at 0-4, including an 0-3 mark at home. However, they rid themselves of the zero in the win column with a 26-20 victory at Raymond James Stadium over Cincinnati. With the one win the Bulls have already reached their victory total in conference play from a year ago.
The Huskies are no stranger to losing this season. They have lost all four of their matchups, including a 41-12 setback against Buffalo most recently. The squad then lost head coach Paul Pasqualoni when he was fired last Monday. Taking over on an interim basis is T.J. Weist, who was the offensive coordinator under Pasqualoni. Weist and the Huskies were idle this past weekend.
Last year's meeting between these squads was a defensive battle that ended in a Bulls' win (13-6). It was the only league victory of the season for USF, which trails the all-time series by a 5-4 margin.
Even though USF scored a season-high 26 points against Cincinnati, the offense struggled once again. The Bulls scored a pair of non-offensive touchdowns and got a 4-of-4 showing from Marvin Kloss on field goals to capture the victory. Meanwhile, the Bulls totaled just 241 yards of total offense and 12 first downs. The Bulls rank last in the AAC in total offense (264.4 ypg).
It is difficult to get much going offensively when there is no consistency at quarterback. Bobby Eveld (27-of-63, 327 yards, two TDs, INT) and Steven Bench (22-of-52, 324 yards, two TDs, two INTs) have each seen time at quarterback but neither has been producing much.
The lack of consistency at quarterback has taken a toll on the Bulls' receivers with only Andre Davis (17 receptions, 247 yards, TD) having more than 10 catches and 100 yards through five games.
There is some reason to be optimistic about the offense though. That reason is the running of Marcus Shaw. Shaw has totaled 552 yards and two scores on 86 carries and is one of just two players in the AAC averaging more than 100 yards per game. However, Shaw was limited to just 27 yards on nine carries against Cincinnati due to a hamstring injury, which has him listed as questionable for Saturday's contest. If Shaw is unavailable Michael Pierre, who had 64 yards last week, would get the bulk of the carries.
While the offense has shown very little progress, the Bulls have done a solid job on defense. Though they are allowing 34.2 points per game, the Bulls are limiting teams to just 361.4 yards a contest, while holding foes to a 13-of-19 success rate in the red zone.
DeDe Lattimore returned a fumble 10 yards for a touchdown against Cincinnati. It was just another big play from Lattimore, who leads the Bulls with 45 tackles, while creating three turnovers.
UConn can certainly commiserate with USF on the offensive front. The Huskies are scoring just 18 points per game and have been held to an average below 275 total yards each week. Part of the issue is success on third down (17-of-60) and a lack of protection for the quarterback (20 sacks allowed).
With so little time to throw it is tough to blame Chandler Whitmer for struggling this season. Whitmer has completed 55 percent of his pass attempts for 896 yards and five scores, despite constantly taking hits. However, Whitmer has thrown six interceptions as well and needs to improve along with his offensive line.
Whitmer may be without one of his favorite receivers on Saturday as Shakim Phillips (15 receptions, 255 yards, three TDs) is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury. If Phillips is unavailable it will put more pressure on Geremy Davis (19 receptions, 308 yards) as well as the weak running game led by Lyle McCombs (57 carries, 200 yards, two TDs).
A year ago UConn was one of the best defensive squads in the AAC. That has not carried over to 2013. The Huskies are letting up more than 30 points and 370 yards of offense each week. UConn is ranked seventh in total defense but the real issue has been in creating negative plays with the Huskies having just three tackles for loss.
Like Lattimore, Yawin Smallwood is an all-conference contender, as he is second in the league in tackles (55).
The Bulls escaped with a win against Cincinnati thanks to some opportunistic plays on offense and special teams. USF may be able to recreate some of that magic against a transitioning UConn squad, but getting a win on the road might be too much to ask.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Connecticut 17, USF 14
10/09 10:39:42 ET
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