I finally let the Connecticut game go on Tuesday after the weekly press conference got underway. At first I was wondering, "Why is everyone bringing up the same weird excuses that they've been using ever since the end of the game on Saturday? The wind, the humidity, the dry hands, all of that?" Once I thought about it, I concluded that the coaches had to know they made some tactical mistakes with the game plan, once they were able to watch the tape and figure things out. But at that point, it was too late to go back and admit all those other reasons weren't true -- that would have looked even worse than coming right out after the game and admitting fault. So they were stuck.
And that's fine. We know they can adapt, because they did it in pretty much every game last year. They messed up one game; it was the first time they'd ever really done that here; it doesn't automatically make them incompetent. Let's just move on to the next game.
So how does USF end this brief two-game losing streak?
1. Don't let Isaiah Pead go all Ray Graham on you. This point doesn't need much elaboration, so I won't add very much. Pead has the capability to run up 200 yards if the Bulls struggle in the trenches and don't tackle well. If that happens, you might as well book a win for the Bearcats.
2. A-T-T-A-C-K. On both sides of the ball. USF had a classic play-not-to-lose philosophy going last week, and they lost anyway. Instead of allowing the linebackers to get blocked at the second level, see if you can flood the running lanes with blitzes. Keep the offensive tempo cranked up. Throw the ball past the first-down marker because the only competent offense Cincinnati has played all year was Tennessee before Tyler Bray got hurt, and he absolutely lit them up. I have a sneaking feeling the Bearcats' defense is not as good as their stats because of their weak schedule. I'd like to see the Bulls offense go out there and test it thoroughly. Besides, they did it last year, back when B.J. Daniels was in such a funk that he couldn't even find guys running wide open down the field.
3. Don't let D.J. Woods go all Michael Floyd on you. The Bearcats' receiving corps isn't quite what you remember. Mardy Gilyard and Armon Binns aren't around anymore, and in their place are D.J. Woods and some guys who haven't really broken through yet. I expect Woods will see a lot of Kayvon Webster on Saturday, as the USF defenses forces one of the newer receivers to step up.
4. Try to take care of the ball. This might contradict what I just said in key #2. But you do still need to be careful because the Bearcats have 19 takeaways in six games. Again, it's against mostly weak competition, but that's some pretty solid ball-hawking. And they have four defensive touchdowns as well, which is one reason why they lead the Big East in scoring average. You can't give Cincinnati free points. You can't even give UConn free points.
5. Get that noon magic back. This is the first noon game of the season for USF. Up until last season, they were absolutely dominant in the early time slot, going 16-3 from 2005-2009. But in 2010, they lost three times at noon -- at Florida, and at home against Syracuse and Pittsburgh. The two home games they played at noon were by far their worst all year in Tampa. Up and at 'em boys, time's a wasting. Or something like that.