Tampa, Fla – USF is fresh off it’s bye week and will be headed up to Amherst, MA this Saturday to take on the UMass Minutemen. 

UMass Quick Facts: 

  • UMass plays as an independent football team – not affiliated with an conference.
  • UMass head coach Mark Whipple is suspended for the USF game due to inappropriate postgame comments last weekend when saying of the referees: "We had a chance there with 16 down and they rape us, and he picks up the flag."
  • UMass enters Saturday 2-4 on the season and has yet to have winning season since joining FBS level in 2012.
  • The 2017 USF-UMass game was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma impacting the Bulls’ AAC schedule – USF swapped UMass with UConn. 

While You Were Away 

USF spent last week giving some key veterans much needed rest during their bye week. It was very evident that the Bulls were lacking talent in their close 20-13 win over East Carolina back on September 22. USF should be close to full go with all players this Saturday on the road against UMass. Head Coach Charlie Strong would not comment on specific players who will be available but did indicate the Bulls are moving in the right direction thanks to rest and recovery. Strong also said that with some guys taking some days off, due to bumps and bruises, younger players were given the chance to get some needed reps in practice. 

No Offense to the Offense 

One comment from Charlie Strong that really stuck with me after the ECU game was this: “Our offensive coaches are upset and they should be.” This is something a lot of fans have been feeling for well over a year now. Give credit to offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert. He can rack up yards and points. But the offense felt stagnant and out of sync for much of the Bulls’ win nearly two weeks ago. Granted, Blake Barnett (who has 12 total touchdowns this season) was able to connect with a wide-open Darnell Salomon for a 66-yard touchdown, as well as run for another score. Jordan Cronkrite saved the day with an 80-yard touchdown run to give USF this victory. 

The offensive line has some work to do. This is still a good group and when they are working well, the offense moves efficiently. Charlie Strong has been harping on this point for the last three weeks: “We have to be physical and win at the line of scrimmage, and we really haven’t been doing that lately.” The O-Line surrendered six sacks against ECU, and 11 total this season. That puts the Bulls near the bottom of the AAC in sacks allowed. Only three teams have allowed more (SMU, Tulane, Tulsa) and you don’t want to be mentioned with any of them. 

Quote: “We had time to get back in the lab and work on things we need to get better at and also work on things we are good at.” – Billy Atterbury, USF Offensive Guard. 

The Defense (never) rests 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bulls never seem satisfied. I was interviewing USF defensive backs coach Blue Adams this week for a future story and he was upset that his DBs only have three interceptions this season. USF’s defense has five interceptions this season (4th in the AAC, T-28 in the nation). The Bulls are also looking for more aggressive play from their defensive line. USF has 11 sacks and 34 tackles for loss, but it’s never good enough in the coaches or players’ eyes. That’s a good thing. USF is also one of the best pass defenses in the AAC (2nd only to UCF) allowing just 649 passing yards this season. 

Quote: “(UMass) is a very good ball club and we can’t worry about their (2-4) record. We need to go up there on the road and play well and get the win.”

   -Ronnie Hoggins, USF cornerback. 

A Minute on the Minutemen 

UMass actually leads all independent schools with 35.3 points per game.  That’s right – 6th-ranked Notre Dame is second to the Minutemen! On the flip side UMass has the worst defense of independents allowing 483.8 yards per game (114th nationally). UMass has also allowed over 1,300 passing yards this season – placing them 116th out of 130 FBS schools. But at least they’re ahead of Florida State who is 117th in passing yards allowed this season (small poke at Willie Taggart – no harm intended). 

Names to Know: UMass senior quarterback Andrew Ford is at 841 passing yards this season and could pass the 1,000-yard mark against the Bulls this weekend. USF also uses QB Ross Comis. Running back Marquis Young is threat with over 3,000 career-rushing yards and currently has four rushing touchdowns this season. Andy Isabella is the go-to receiver with seven touchdown receptions this season. No one else in the receiving corps has more than one touchdown catch this season. 

Prediction Time 

This is the game USF should come out annoyed and upset. The way Bulls coaches and players have been talking since the ECU game, this should be the type of contest where USF explodes on offense. The defense should have multiple turnovers. A big key will be the Bulls winning on first down and being physical in the trenches – a request from Charlie Strong. 

Grab a bowl of chowdah and enjoy the game. 

USF 41 UMass 20