USF (4-5; 2-3 American) vs Temple (3-6; 1-4 American)
Saturday, Nov.11 • 12:00 PM • Raymond James Stadium (65,000) • Tampa, Fla.
SURFACES: Natural Bermuda
TV: ESPN+: Ted Emrich & Patrick Murray (Analyst)
AUDIO: 102.5 FM & HD 2/ TuneIn – Bulls Unlimited
SERIES: Temple leads, 6-3
IN TAMPA: USF leads, 3-1
LAST TIME IN TAMPA: 2021, USF won, 34-14
IN PHILADELPHIA: Temple leads, 5-0
LAST TIME: Temple won, 54-28, in Philly in 2022
STREAKS: Temple has won one
USF GAME NOTES
USF football coach Alex Golesh addressed the Bull-shaped elephant in the room on Tuesday.
Three games remain in the regular season. USF must win two of them in order to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2018.
That would mean a resounding punctuation mark on his first-year USF turnaround, good times for the fan base and about a dozen bonus practices that he termed as “vital” for the program’s maturation and growth.
The first step for the Bulls (4-5, 2-3 American Athletic Conference) is taking care of the Temple Owls (3-6, 1-4) Saturday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium.
But to defeat Temple, Golesh said the Bulls must reverse a disturbing trend that lingered into last weekend’s 59-50 road defeat against the Memphis Tigers. USF has dropped three of its last four games while surrendering an average of 57 points in those losses.
“So much good and then so much bad — all at the same time,” Golesh said of the game at Memphis, where the Bulls faced a quartet of two-touchdown deficits in the first half, surged into a third-quarter lead, only to be outscored down the stretch. “It’s the inconsistency that keeps you up at night.”
Golesh said USF’s offense “continues to get better operationally,” although it had fourth-quarter stumbles with the outcome in the balance. Defensively, he said there’s “a lot of immaturity that shows up at different times fundamentally and with the players (not ) making plays.”
Golesh said he refuses to sacrifice the program’s long-term foundation to achieve short-term gains. So, he and the USF coaches will continue to search for the right lineup combinations, perhaps turning to younger athletes or players who haven’t yet filled a prominent role.
Consistency is the goal.
“I don’t hide from our issues,” Golesh said. “We’re going to continue to fight to get better. We just had a really long, competitive practice and I’m glad it was kind of hot (Tuesday). I wanted to see who would respond.”
The Bulls will need a solid response against the Owls, who defeated USF 54-28 last season in Philadelphia, when quarterback EJ Warner passed for 344 yards and running back Edward Saydee had a career day (334 all-purpose yards, 265 rushing). For the first time in more than a half-century, Temple had a game in which it didn’t punt or turn the ball over.
Last week, Temple snapped a five-game losing streak by defeating Navy 32-18. Warner, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, passed for 402 yards and four touchdowns after missing the previous two games due to injury.
The Temple defense will also face a hot quarterback in USF’s Byrum Brown, who was ultra-sharp at Memphis. Brown tied a 21-year-old program record by throwing five touchdown passes, while accounting for 457 total yards (357 passing, 100 rushing). Brown, who ranks No. 6 nationally in total offense (321.7 yards per game), threw his touchdowns to five different pass-catchers.
“I thought it was as clean and as sound as Byrum has played all year,” Golesh said.
Now, Golesh seeks similar focus and production from other areas of the team, particularly on defense.
Golesh said he wants a process-driven program instead of a result-driven program. If the process is correct, he said the winners will take care of themselves. But the inconsistencies of a roller-coaster existence make it difficult for improvement.
“You’re trying to find the best version of each guy, but then you come to a crossroads,” Golesh said. “We’re at a breaking point on all three sides of the ball where we are saying the inconsistency is killing us … and we are going to play THAT guy.
“He may not be as talented, but at least I know what I’m going to get from an effort, attitude, alignment, assignment perspective. He may not be able to make every single play, but at least I know he’ll be in the right spot at the right time. And he’s going to play as hard as he can.
“That’s where you see a lot of lineup changes because you’re laying a foundation for what your standard is. It’s a really, really tough way to live. But it’s also the same reason I’m here and I’m not budging on what our standard is. We’re going to play harder than everybody we play against. We’re going to work harder than anybody in the offseason. We’re going to work harder than anybody in recruiting.”
If the Bulls can complete that task with two more victories, USF will be eligible for the postseason for the first time since the 2018 Gasparilla Bowl.
“I think that’s all great stuff, but Coach Golesh’s message to the team has really been to just be the best versions of ourselves,” tight end Weston Wolff said. “It’s important to take it one week at a time, not overlooking any opponent, and attacking each week with that mindset. Obviously, a bowl game would be great to get that extra practice, but we’re really focusing (on Temple). ”
So is Golesh.
But he also wants everyone to know what’s at stake.
“Monday was the first time I brought up to our guys (the subject of) getting an opportunity to play in a bowl game,” Golesh said. “For no other reason than buying time to get our young guys better. I think bowl games are looked at differently from the outside than the way they are viewed internally. There’s an extra 10-to-15 practices that you steal to develop your younger guys.
“That’s really why good teams stay good and bad teams stay bad is because you lose time in December (if you’re not bowl eligible) to work with these guys. We’ll enter December where we have to make decisions on our roster and continue to upgrade there. But I’m excited because we’ve got a core group of guys who continue to get better every week. Those are the guys we’re going to hang our hats on.”