The focus shifts from questions at quarterback to the best way to stop the option.
By PETE YOUNG
Published September 6, 2003
TAMPA - Remember, if you will, a time when the biggest concern about South Florida was quarterback. How would it do without Marquel Blackwell and how would successor Ronnie Banks fare?
Ah, the old days - about a week ago.
Last week USF prepared to open its season at storied Alabama with Banks making his first start. His stout performance put any quarterback questions to rest, and all else about today's game is the opposite of a week ago, when USF lost 40-17.
For starters, the Bulls played a fabled opponent. This week, they host lesser-known Division I-AA Nicholls State.
Last week, road/day game on national television (ESPN). This week, home/night game and no television.
Last week, vs. a balanced offense, this week vs. the triple option. Last week, a game USF was looking forward to every minute since last season ended. This week, a game USF has been looking forward to since, oh, Monday.
"You've got to rebound," USF coach Jim Leavitt said. "If you sit there and dwell on it too much, you're not going to have a chance."
Last week, proud. This week, humbled.
"Everybody's down when you lose. That's normal, that's human nature," Leavitt said. "But they'll be fine. It's always tough when you come off a loss."
The Alabama game is one of the most confounding in USF annals. Domination by the Bulls for the first 28 minutes, dominated the final 32 as 'Bama closed the game on a 33-0 run.
"We obviously wanted to beat Alabama but that didn't happen," said Banks, 17-of-33 for 199 yards with a touchdown and interception in his starting debut. "This is when leaders have to step up and regroup the team. That's what we have to do, that's what I have to do. It's my job."
The Bulls need to pull it together quickly for two reasons:
1) Nicholls State (1-0) is no pushover. The Colonels made the 16-team I-AA playoffs last season and are ranked 19th in the Sports Network poll.
2) Nicholls State runs the triple option almost exclusively, which is rare. The Bulls typically face such an attack maybe once or twice a year, and not at all last season.
"We saw it against Georgia Southern our first two years (1997-98), we saw it against Western Kentucky (1997-2000), we saw it against Southern Utah (2001)," Leavitt said. "Everybody's got to do the right thing every time. If you don't, if you're not that assignment sound, if you're not that disciplined, it's going to pop out there."
USF's 19-game winning streak at Raymond James Stadium, dating to a 42-23 defeat to Hofstra in the 1999 season finale, is on the line.
Leavitt said Wednesday there will be no lineup changes, but after the problems the Bulls had with cramping last week, expect to see players rotating frequently - and drinking lots of liquids before the game.
- NOTE: Sports information director John Gerdes said USF has not considered postponing the game because of Tropical Storm Henri.