South Florida heads to UConn after season’s first loss
STORRS, Conn. (AP) — A trip to Connecticut may be just what South Florida needs after a disappointing week that saw Bulls lose for the first time in more than a year and drop out of the Top 25.
USF (7-1, 4-1 American) will face one of the nation’s worst defenses on Saturday. UConn (3-5, 2-3), which coming off a 52-12 rout at home to Missouri, has been giving up and average of more than 548 yards a game. That includes just under 378 yards through the air, more than any other FBS team.
Coach Charlie Strong says his Bulls need to bounce back quickly after the 28-24 loss to Houston that saw the Cougars score with just 11 seconds to play, snapping USF’s 12-game winning streak.
“I’ve never seen a team so down,” Strong said during his weekly news conference. “Their goals are still in front of them. No, you’re not going to have an undefeated season, but the conference championship is still there for us.”
Strong said he hopes the team takes note that just one loss caused it to fall out of the rankings and uses that lack of respect as motivation.
UConn coach Randy Edsall is also trying to convince his Huskies they can still have a successful season. UConn needs to win three of its final four games to become bowl eligible. The Huskies close with games against No. 15 UCF, Boston College and Cincinnati.
“I want to get better and I want to win and that’s what are kids want to do,” Edsall said. “They want to get better and they want to win.”
Here are some things to watch for as the Huskies host USF on Saturday:
Strong has been playing down speculation this week that he is a candidate to become the next head coach at Florida, where he served as defensive coordinator under Ron Zook and Urban Meyer. Strong said he addressed the potential distraction with his team.
“I told the team that my focus is here,” he said. “This is my job. This is the only job I have. This is the only job I’m concerned about.”
USF quarterback Quinton Flowers threw for a season-high 325 yards against Houston, while Marquez Valdes-Scantling had a career receiving day, catching 10 balls for 186 yards. UConn has given up more than 100 yards to nine different receivers this year and two of them, East Carolina’s Devon Grayson and Memphis receiver Anthony Miller each had more than 200 receiving yards against the Huskies.
Because of a quirk in the schedule that has UConn “hosting” Boston College later this month at Fenway Park, Saturday will be the Huskies last true home game. Tommy Myers, whose father also played football at UConn and mother played basketball at the school, said that will make for an odd early senior day. Myers has played for every coach UConn has had since becoming a Divison I-A program in 2002, during Edsall’s first stint at the school.
“It’s been an absolutely insane ride, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” he said. “The four coaches that I’ve experienced in college have all brought something different to the table with their personalities, but they’ve all had the same ideas, which is winning and doing what is best for the team.”
Edsall suspended senior safety Jamar Summers for the first three quarters of the game. Edsall pulled Summers last week when he picked up a taunting penalty after intercepting a pass with the Huskies trailing 45-12. Edsall said he made the disciplinary decision after consulting with the players’ leadership counsel. UConn also will be without tailback Nate Hopkins who is suffering from a shoulder injury. The Huskies had already lost running back Arkeel Newsome for the season with an injured shoulder.
The game was originally scheduled for Sept 9, but postponed with Hurricane Irma bearing down on Florida and uncertainty over whether the Bulls could make it home before the storm hit.