Football to Take on USF for First Time

So, how exactly does the Utah football team get motivated to play South Florida this Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium?

The Bulls are not the U’s season opener, conference-opener or even a conference opponent, for that matter. They don’t boast a national ranking or a Heisman candidate. As they?re in just their fifth year of existence and first year of Division I play, they don’t come with a prestigious reputation.

They don’t even have a bad blooded rivalry with the Utes, as this will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams.

How does U coach Ron McBride prepare for an opponent that changes looks and styles enough to impress Madonna?

He does know that the basic offensive system is an offshoot of the run-and-shoot, but when USF quarterback Marquel Blackwell averages 52.7 pass attempts per game through the first three games, then throws just 24 times against North Texas and still wins 28-10, convention goes out the window.

“It all just depends on what team they’re playing. They take a look at your defensive package and adjust,” McBride said. “We do know that, since they’re no huddle, they’re going to get more reps, so they’re going to get more opportunities to go at you.”

Meanwhile, figuring out the defensive strategy isn’t much easier. As the Bulls have played a pair of hurry-up, no-huddle opponents in Pitt and Memphis, as well as conventional offenses such as Northern Illinois and North Texas, South Florida’s defensive strategy is a bit muddled too.

“I’m just not sure because they’ve played a variety of teams,” McBride said. “I think it’s an eagle front with movement on the line, where they might bring the safety up for an eight-man front if they want to.”

So, with very little motivation other than a general desire to win, and very little scouting knowledge aside from rudimentary principles, how is McBride even preparing his team for South Florida?

By reminding the Utes that, first, any underestimated opponent is dangerous, and second, in spite of their 37-16 demolition of New Mexico last week, the Utes have hardly reached perfection.

“If we don’t play better than we did last week, these guys will beat us,” McBride said. “They crushed Pittsburgh. I’m not blowing any smoke?these guys are going to get better and better.”

In going into Pittsburgh and defeating the Panthers 35-26?a game McBride said “wasn’t even close”?South Florida served notice that it may be a young program, but it is one that is not to be trifled with.

And while Utah doesn’t necessarily anticipate the Bulls chucking the ball up 60 times or so, as they did against Pitt (Blackwell went 37-of-65 for 343 yards), it does expect a fast-paced attack.

“It’s going to be an exciting game to watch. Their offense is really high-powered,” said U tight end Michael Richardson. “Our defense is going to have its hands full.”

One of the members of the defense, starting corner Yohance Scott, agreed, saying the thought of USF’s aerial onslaught provided “a little pressure, but a good challenge.”

Meanwhile, though the Ute defense might be subjected to more constant pressure, the sometimes-sluggish U offense would be challenged nevertheless by a South Florida defensive unit McBride described as “extremely talented,” and possessed of “really good athletes.”

“Their defense is very quick in the secondary and the linebacking corps, their defensive line is full of big guys who hold their ground pretty well,” Richardson said. “We’re just going to have to fulfill our assignments.”

Ultimately, as is always the case, McBride said the outcome was dependent upon effort and execution.

“If we play hard, we’ll be OK; if not, they’re going to give us problems,” he said.

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