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Vikings waive former Lakewood, USF star Rodney Adams

Former USF standout Rodney Adams (87) set a USF  single-season record with 67 catches last season.

CHARLIE KAIJO | Times

Former USF standout Rodney Adams (87) set a USF single-season record with 67 catches last season.

Former USF speedster Rodney Adams was waived Monday by the Vikings, who drafted him in the fifth round in April.

Adams, who shined in the preseason (nine catches, 73 yards, two touchdowns) but hadn't appeared in a regular season game, became expendable when veteran WR Michael Floyd recently returned from a four-game suspension.

The team also seems more enamored with seventh-round draft choice Stacy Coley, a former University of Miami star who has appeared in four games.

A Lakewood High alumnus, Adams set a USF single-season mark with 67 catches last season, and finished with 16 careeer receiving touchdowns -- one shy of the program mark.

His departure from the Vikings means Indianapolis TB Marlon Mack remains the only one of USF's three 2017 draftees still on an active roster. Adams, however, could be claimed by another team.

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Know the foe: Connecticut

Veteran Connecticut quarterback Bryant Shirreffs (4) recently threw for 400 yards in back-to-back games.

Mark Mirko | Hartford Courant

Veteran Connecticut quarterback Bryant Shirreffs (4) recently threw for 400 yards in back-to-back games.

A look at Connecticut, which hosts USF on Saturday at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Conn.

Nickame: Huskies
Record: 3-5 (2-3 American Athletic Conference)
Wins: vs. Holy Cross, 27-20; at Temple, 28-24; vs. Tulsa, 20-14
Losses: at Virginia, 38-18; vs. East Carolina, 41-38; at SMU, 49-28; vs. Memphis, 70-31; vs. Missouri, 52-12
Coach: Randy Edsall (first season back at UConn, 3-5; 18th season overall, 99-109; 74-70 in first stint at UConn)

Offensive breakdown: Despite losing four games by 20 or more points, the Huskies have done just enough to make Bulls fans squirm. They're averaging only 25.3 points (85th nationally) and struggling mightily on the ground (130.6 ypg), but fifth-year senior QB Bryant Shirreffs has had his moments. Two weeks ago against Tulsa, he finished 23-of-29 for 372 yards, but was sacked five times and finished 19-of-39 Saturday against Missouri. Saturday's clunker notwithstanding, Shirreffs has enjoyed a resurrection of sorts under first-year coordinator (and former Auburn offensive architect) Rhett Lashlee. Earlier this season, he became the first Huskies QB to record back-to-back 400-yard passing efforts, and ranks 15th nationally in pass efficiency (156.0). Moreover, UConn is ranked 22nd in the country in pass offense (292.4 ypg). Problem is, Shirreffs is getting little support from his blockers or backfield. UConn allows three sacks a game, which ranks last in the AAC, and has run for more than 200 yards in only one game. Senior RB Arkeel Newsome, UConn's top rusher each of the past two years and a bona fide receiving threat out of the backfield, remains out with a sternum/clavicle injury.

Defensive breakdown: For a USF team in need of a solid offensive effort to regain some of its mojo, UConn seems the ideal antidote. The Huskies rank 127th nationally in total defense (548.4 ypg) and 123rd in pass-efficiency defense (160.94). Three different quarterbacks have thrown for more than 400 yards against UConn, while two wideouts have had 200-yard performances. Senior LB Junior Joseph (68 tackles, three sacks) is the crown jewel of Edsall's 3-3-5 system, but the green secondary behind him (two true freshmen, one redshirt freshman) has struggled. The veteran of the group, 2015 first-team All-AAC pick Jamar Summers, had his first interception of the year Saturday against Missouri, then drew Edsall's ire by throwing the ball at the intended receiver. "That ain't happening in this program," Edsall told the Hartford Courant.

Odds and ends: The Bulls-Huskies game, originally scheduled for Sept. 9, was postponed due to Hurricane Irma. ... Keep an eye on the Hartford weather, which ultimately could play a factor. Saturday's forecast in Hartford (per The Weather Channel) calls for temperatures in the mid- to low-40s with a 40-percent chance of rain. ... UConn's roster features seven Floridians, but none from the bay area.

Audible: "They're a different football team, they're a better football team than they were (in early September). ... And they try so much misdirection and try to get the ball on the perimeter, and they have enough where they can run down inside. The quarterback does a great job of managing the offense and making the throws." -- Charlie Strong

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Strong suggests execution, not scheme, stifled Bulls

USF coach Charlie Strong (left) said execution foiled his team in its 28-24 loss Saturday to Houston.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF coach Charlie Strong (left) said execution foiled his team in its 28-24 loss Saturday to Houston.

If USF is planning any type of offensive shakeup in the wake of Saturday's 28-24 loss to Houston, Charlie Strong isn't telling.

But based on his comments Monday during the American Athletic Conference weekly coaches teleconference, he seems intent on maintaining the status quo, and just executing it better.

When asked if he feels the need to diversify his power-based offense, Strong said, "I mean, offensively we were able to score points. We've just got to get off the field on defense. We scored enough points to win, we were up 7-0 at the half and let the other team score 28 points.

"It's not just one thing, it's all phases."

USF finished with a season-low 137 rushing yards on 55 carries (2.49 yards per carry). On the Bulls' final scoring drive, resulting in a field goal, the Bulls had first-and-15 from the Cougars 24, but opted for three consecutive runs that netted 11 yards.

Additionally, USF ran the ball 23 of 36 times on first down, totaling 22 yards on those runs.

"It's just executing," Strong said. "You've got to block guys, we just didn't get enough hats on the bodies."

Houston coach Major Applewhite acknowledged his defense's objective basically was to load the box and force USF to beat the Cougars through the air.

"A lot of it really was, yes, you've got to stop the run game," Applewhite said on the teleconference.

"(Darius) Tice and D'Ernest (Johnson) are great players, as is Quinton (Flowers). They run the ball well, and not to (discount) (WR Marquez) Scantling and the other guys, because...they made plays outside.

"But it was really to keep everything in front of us and try to eliminate the huge, explosive plays outside and then try to tackle the run game inside."

ATTENDANCE SPIKE, THEN SWOON: Two weeks after the largest home crowd of the season turned out for the homecoming game, a hearty segment of that group -- most of it students -- stayed away Saturday.

Acutal attendance for the Houston game was 22,417, according to the Tampa Sports Authority. Several factors played against USF including dreary weather, a Lightning home game Saturday night, and a starting kickoff (3:45 p.m.) that went head-to-head with Penn State-Ohio State and Florida-Georgia.

The homecoming game against Cincinnati drew an actual crowd of 38,121, USF's best for a home game against a non-Power Five opponent since 2011.

ODDS AND ENDS: USF's game Saturday at Connecticut kicks off at 3:30, and will be televised on ESPNU. ... Bulls DT Deadrin Senat, who had a career game against Houston (12 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss,  2.5 sacks), made the AAC's weekly honor roll. ... Houston sophomore QB D'Eriq King, who came off the bench to total 220 yards (and account for three TDs) in the upset, was named AAC Offensive Player of the Week. Applewhite said the Cougars had a package in place for King if Houston struggled early. He entered after the Cougars totaled 4 yards on their first two possessions. 

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USF falls out of AP top 25

Houston quarterback D'Eriq King tries to elude USF's Auggie Sanchez (43) and Josh Black (55) during the Cougars' 28-24 triumph Saturday.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Houston quarterback D'Eriq King tries to elude USF's Auggie Sanchez (43) and Josh Black (55) during the Cougars' 28-24 triumph Saturday.

Add USF's string of Associated Press poll appearances to the list of casualties stemming from its 28-24 loss to Houston.

Saturday's loss to the Cougars dropped the Bulls (7-1) out of the top 25, ending a streak of 13 consecutive poll appearances dating to Week 14 of last season.

The loss also ended the Bulls' 12-game win streak -- longest in Division I-A -- and its national-record string of 24 consecutive games with at least 30 points.

Meantime, two American Athletic Conference peers -- UCF (7-0) and Memphis (7-1) -- leapfrogged USF in the poll. The Knights jumped three spots to No. 15 following a 73-33 romp of I-AA Austin Peay, and Memphis moved up two spots to No. 22 following a 56-26 romp of Tulane.

If the Knights and Tigers are the only two teams ranked ahead of USF in the initial College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night, the Bulls remain in control of their postseason destiny.

Should the Bulls win out in the regular season, ending with a victory against UCF on Black Friday in Orlando, then defeat Memphis in the AAC title game, they almost certainly clinch a New Year's Six bowl bid. That berth is awarded to the CFP committee's highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion.

Elsewhere in the AP poll, Miami (7-0) moved down one spot -- to ninth -- after a lackluster 24-19 win against 1-8 North Carolina. Georgia moved to No. 2 (behind Alabama) following its 42-7 embarrassment of Florida, giving the SEC the No. 1 and 2 teams for the first time since 2012. …

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Peach pursuit: How the Group of Five's best fared in Week 9

Quarterback Riley Ferguson (4) has Memphis on a four-game win streak.

AP photo

Quarterback Riley Ferguson (4) has Memphis on a four-game win streak.

Each week henceforth, we'll take a look at how USF fared in comparison to the other serious Group of Five contenders for the New Year's Six bowl berth. The Group of Five conference champion ranked highest by the College Football Playoff committee earns the New Year's Six nod. Presuming that berth will be in the Peach Bowl (though it could be the Fiesta), we've devised a gauge of sorts measuring each team's Peach Bowl chances at this moment in time.

Peachy: In the driver's seat for a Peach Bowl berth
Ripening: A team to watch. Peach Bowl outlook getting stronger
Bruised: Peach Bowl chances took a recent hit
The Pits: Not a serious contender at this time


Boise State (6-2)
This week: defeated Utah State 41-14
Next week: vs. Nevada
The Broncos, who need several figurative dominoes to fall to re-enter the New Year's Six discussion, watched one of them tumble Saturday. USF's loss to Houston helped Boise, but at minimum, it still needs the Bulls to win at UCF. Meantime, Boise must win out. If that occurs, it will be interesting to see how the CFP committee views a team on a nine-game win streak whose only losses were to a pair of Power Five programs (Washington State, Virginia). Would the committee rank a two-loss Broncos squad over a one-loss American Athletic Conference champion?
Outlook: Ripening

Toledo (7-1)
This week: defeated Ball State 58-17
Next week: vs. Northern Illinois (Thursday)
Like USF, the Rockets suffer from a feeble regular season schedule (ranked 113th by national stats guru Cody Kellner). But whereas the Bulls still have some potential quality wins before them (UCF, Memphis in AAC title game), Toledo has none. Even if they win out and capture the MAC title, their best-case postseason scenario is probably a trip to the Bahamas Bowl.
Outlook: Bruised

Marshall (6-2)
This week: lost to FIU 41-30
Next week: at FAU (Friday)
Stick a fork in the Thundering Herd. The loss to FIU, snapping a five-game win streak, ended their New Year's Six hopes. Sorry, we just don't see a two-loss Conference USA champ leapfrogging a one-loss AAC titlist (or even a two-loss Mountain West champ) in the CFP rankings.
Outlook: The pits

Memphis (7-1)
This week: defeated Tulane 56-26
Next week: at Tulsa (Friday)
We wouldn't be at all shocked to find the Tigers ranked ahead of USF in Tuesday's initial CFP rankings. Memphis has won four in a row, owns more quality wins (Houston, Navy), and has defeated a half-decent Power Five program (UCLA). The rest of the Tigers' schedule (at Tulsa, home vs. SMU and East Carolina) is very manageable. If they win out and prevail in the AAC title game, we like their Peach Bowl chances. A lot.
Outlook: Peachy

Navy (5-2)
This week: Bye
Next week: at Temple (Thursday)
We're keeping the Midshipmen on here only because they could make noise down the stretch (with wins against Notre Dame, Houston and Army). Even if they do somehow win out, they'd still need a pretty epic collapse by Memphis to even make the AAC title game.   
Outlook: The pits

San Diego State (7-2)
This week: defeated Hawaii 28-7
Next week: at San Jose State
The Aztecs' hopes haven't flatlined yet. To win the Mountain West's West Division, they still need Fresno State -- upset by UNLV on Saturday -- to lose twice more down the stretch, and Fresno still must play Wyoming and Boise State. If Fresno falters and the Aztecs win out (very do-able), then prevail in the Mountain West title game, the CFP committee could give SDSU a serious look. Remember, the Aztecs have wins against Arizona State and Stanford in their back pocket.  
Outlook: Bruised

UCF (7-0)
This week: defeated Austin Peay 73-33
Next week: at SMU
The Knights are certain to be the highest-ranked Group of Five team when the first CFP rankings are released Tuesday night. If that's the case, UCF controls its own destiny with regular season games against SMU, Connecticut, Temple and USF remaining. Pretty academic stuff.
Outlook: Peachy

USF (7-1)
This week: lost to Houston 28-24
Next week: at Connecticut
Even after suffering one of the most crushing defeats in program history, the Bulls still have all their goals before them. The AAC title, a Peach berth, the best record in program history -- all remain on the table. The only thing they've lost is their margin for error. One more slip-up, and the Bulls can say adios to Atlanta and gear up for the Gasparilla Bowl.
Outlook: Bruised

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USF journal: First-down futility haunts Bulls

USF's Deatrick Nichols (3) and Auggie Sanchez (43) react to Houston's game-winning touchdown in the final seconds of the Cougars' 28-24 victory against USF.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

USF's Deatrick Nichols (3) and Auggie Sanchez (43) react to Houston's game-winning touchdown in the final seconds of the Cougars' 28-24 victory against USF.

If USF is to diversify its highly maligned offense in the wake of its 28-24 loss to Houston, the first order of business may be...well...first down.

Of USF's 36 first-down plays Saturday, 23 were runs. The Bulls totaled 22 yards on those runs.

The first seven -- all in the opening quarter -- netted minus-2 yards. Afterward, Coach Charlie Strong was asked if his offense is creative enough.

"They loaded the box, so...whatever they give you, you've got to take," he said. "They loaded the box on us, which prevented us from getting the big long runs. We were able to get the 3 or 4 yards, but we weren't able to just go get the chunk yards."

BITTERSWEET EFFORTS: Statistically, senior WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling had his best game as a Bull, finishing with a career-best 10 catches for 186 yards. The highlight: a 38-yard catch from Quinton Flowers on a simple post route, setting up USF's final touchdown.

"Career things don't really matter to me, I want to win the game," Valdes-Scantling said. "I was doing whatever it took me to do to win, and that didn't happen today."

Defensively, senior DT Deadrin Senat had a career-best 12 tackles, including four for loss and two sacks. The last sack, resulting in a 10-yard loss, came one play before D'Eriq King's 30-yard completion to Courtney Lark on fourth-and-24, setting up Houston's game-winning TD.

ODDS AND ENDS: USF announced its game next Saturday at UConn will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPNU. ... Houston gained 97 of its 255 rushing yards in the fourth quarter. ... MLB Auggie Sanchez's 10 tackles give him 361 for his career, six shy of Kawika Mitchell's all-time school record (367).

AUDIBLE: "I went up, I was gonna try to pat it down. I thought a couple of guys hit me in the back and then I guess that guy caught the ball. Luck never fails and they were pretty lucky on that play, but hat's off to 'em. They made the big plays to win." -- Sanchez on King's fourth-and-24 strike to Lark

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USF offering more discounted football tickets

USF will wear these all-green uniforms with a camouflage accent for its "Salute to Service" game Saturday against Houston.

Photo provided by USF

USF will wear these all-green uniforms with a camouflage accent for its "Salute to Service" game Saturday against Houston.

USF announced Friday it is providing 500 free tickets to service members at MacDill Air Force Base for each of the Bulls' last two home games, including Saturday's "Salute to Service" contest against Houston.

Aiding the gesture were funds from season-ticket holders who diverted their refunds from the rescheduled Massachusetts game (due to Hurricane Irma).

Service members wishing to obtain tickets are asked to contact the Office of Publice Relations on the base. USF will recognize first responders and military service members Saturday.

The Bulls will wear special all-green uniforms based on a camouflage pattern of World War II-era aircraft stationed at Henderson Air Field, which previously occupied the site of the USF campus.

USF also is offering $15 tickets for all bay area government employs (city or county). Additionally, the first 400 students arriving in vehicles with four or more occupants will park for free. …

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Quinton Flowers to be profiled on 'College GameDay'

USF senior quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) will be profiled on ESPN's 'College GameDay' on Saturday.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF senior quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) will be profiled on ESPN's 'College GameDay' on Saturday.

Bulls QB Quinton Flowers' compelling triumph-despite-tragedy backstory is getting another national audience.

Flowers will be profiled during a segment on ESPN's wildly successful College GameDay pregame show Saturday morning. An ESPN crew spent most of the week on campus interviewing Flowers, Coach Charlie Strong and CB Deatrick Nichols (one of Flowers' best friends), among others.

Flowers, three wins shy of tying Marquel Blackwell's school record for most victories (30) by a Bulls starting quarterback, lost both parents before his senior year at Miami Jackson High. Days before his first college start, a half-brother was killed in a drive-by shooting.

Yet he owns numerous career and single-season school records, and has evolved into the all-time leading rusher among Florida college quarterbacks (3,207 yards).

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USF journal: Keirston Johnson expected to play Saturday

USF defensive tackle Bruce Hector (60) and defensive end Josh Black (55) converge on Cincinnati quarterback Hayden Moore during the Bulls' 33-3 triumph on Oct. 14

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF defensive tackle Bruce Hector (60) and defensive end Josh Black (55) converge on Cincinnati quarterback Hayden Moore during the Bulls' 33-3 triumph on Oct. 14

In the war of attrition that is late October, USF is getting freshman LB Keirston Johnson back just in time for Houston and its 33rd-ranked passing offense (270 ypg), which comes to Raymond James Stadium on Saturday.

Johnson, who had been sidelined since taking a hard hit to the chest against Temple on Sept. 21, practiced again Wednesday and is expected to play Saturday, Bulls defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary said.

“Everybody is in the same situation when you start getting closer to November,” Jean-Mary said. “The more bodies we can have this time of year, it’s always a plus.”

Before his injury, Johnson had at least one tackle in each of the four weeks he played — including at least one a game.

“It’s whatever bodies you have available,” Jean-Mary said. “Not even fully healthy bodies, but bodies who are able to play. You just have to play the guys that are available and hope they’re as productive as the guys who were starting before them.”

HECTOR STEPPING UP HUGE: With a minimum five games remaining this season, senior DT Bruce Hector already has 10 tackles for loss, only five fewer than his college total entering 2017.

The Robinson High alumnus' four sacks also leads the Bulls. Hector and DT Deadrin Senat have accounted for 48 tackles so far for a run defense that ranks ninth nationally (94.4 ypg).

One possibility for Hector's success? The offense he practices against.

“Obviously, I think our offense is one of the top offenses in the country,” Jean-Mary said. “So if you’re able to be productive against them, then you feel like you have a chance to be productive against other opponents.

“(Hector) constantly showed up in preseason camp. I haven’t been surprised and I think he’s playing unbelievable and at a level where he’s one of the better defensive lineman in the country."

Though playing against the running corps of Quinton Flowers, Darius Tice and D’Ernest Johnson on a daily basis surely has helped, Jean-Mary suggested Hector's off-field preparation also has levitated his game.

“You have to give him credit for his film study, his pre-snap recognition based off of formation and what the offensive line is giving him.” Jean-Mary said. "And you have to give him credit for his tenacity and effort."

AUDIBLE: “In this conference, any Saturday, you have to finish games. Memphis is good on offense and they were able to come back and will themselves some points and guys made plays. Houston is still sturdy on defense —- good on the back end, good up front. They’re definitely going to be one of the best (defenses) we’ve faced. It just goes to show what can happen here.” — Bulls offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert, referring to Memphis' come-from-behind 42-38 win at Houston last week

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USF still No. 1 in AAC power rankings

USF linebacker Josh Black (right) tries to take down Tulane running back Dontrell Hilliard during the Bulls' 34-28 victory Saturday in New Orleans.

AP photo

USF linebacker Josh Black (right) tries to take down Tulane running back Dontrell Hilliard during the Bulls' 34-28 victory Saturday in New Orleans.

Memphis moved into sole possession of first place in the American Athletic Conference's West Division, while USF and UCF remained unbeaten in the East.

The AAC has three teams ranked this week in the Associated Press poll: No. 17 USF, No. 18 UCF and No. 24 Memphis. Here’s how the AAC stacks up this week, as voted upon by our league-wide panel of beat reporters.

1. USF (7-0, 4-0 AAC) The Bulls appeared on pace for their fourth consecutive win of 30 or more points Saturday at Tulane, but an overwhelming performance regressed into an overconfident one. In a glaring defensive lapse, the Bulls watched the Green Wave score three consecutive touchdowns and block a field goal in a 34-28 USF victory. Presumably, the close call also will serve as a wake-up one: USF faces its toughest test yet Saturday at home against Houston. -- Joey
Knight, Tampa Bay Times


2. UCF (6-0, 4-0): Adrian Killins rushed for a career-high 122 yards, including a 79-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, that helped UCF survive one of its biggest challenges to date as the Knights outlasted Navy 31-21 Saturday. Redshirt freshman cornerback Brandon Moore was a one-man wrecking crew on defense with a forced fumble and fumble recovery along with an interception that sealed the win for the Knights, off to their first 6-0 start ever. -- Matt Murschel, Orlando Sentinel

3. Memphis (6-1, 3-1): Riley Ferguson set a school passing record with 471 yards as the Tigers moved atop the West with a thrilling come-from-behind 42-38 victory at Houston. Tony Pollard returned his third kickoff for a TD this season, while RB Patrick Taylor scored four times for Memphis, which trailed 31-14 late in the third quarter. Houston native Sean Dykes scored the game-winning TD. Memphis hosts Tulane Friday at the Liberty Bowl. -- John Varlas, The Commercial Appeal

4. Navy (5-2, 3-2): The Midshipmen suffered their second consecutive loss, 31-21 to UCF, and also saw starting QB Zach Abey go down with an injury early in the third quarter after being hit by UCF LB Shaquem Griffin. The Midsshipmen have a bye this weekend and play at Temple on Thursday, Nov. 2 -– Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group

5. Houston (4-3, 2-2): Second-half defense continues to be a problem as the Cougars blew a 17-point lead and allowed all six TDs after halftime in a 42-38 loss to Memphis. In consecutive losses to Tulsa and Memphis, UH has allowed 80 points, 624 total yards and TDs on 11 of 13 possessions after halftime. It doesn’t get easier Saturday as the Cougars play at USF -- the fifth top-15 scoring offense they’ll face this season -- and look to avoid a three-game losing streak for the first time since 2013. -- Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle

6. SMU (5-2, 2-1): The Mustangs picked up their first road win of the season in a wild victory over Cincinnati. The 31-28 win, which required a fourth-and-26 conversion by WR Trey Quinn and an interception on a tipped shovel pass in overtime, gave SMU a big dose of confidence. The Mustangs are a win from being bowl eligible for the first time since 2012, and are looking for more than that as they sit in second place in the West. Next up is Tulsa before a tough stretch
against UCF, Navy and Memphis. –- Adam Grosbard, Dallas Morning News

7. Tulane (3-4, 1-2): Tulane looked overmatched by USF for the better part of three quarters before rallying for three late TDs to get within a score in a 34-28 loss at home. QB Jonathan Banks has an intense competitiveness the Green Wave lacked in the past, and RB Dontrell Hilliard is a terrific all-around player. The defense, subpar in back-to-back games, has to prepare for Memphis and prolific QB Riley Ferguson on a short week for Friday’s road game. That can’t be fun. -– Guerry Smith, The New Orleans Advocate

8. Connecticut (3-4, 2-3): The Huskies built a 20-0 lead midway through the fourth quarter and hung on for a 20-14 victory over Tulsa, a wild game that ended with a Tulsa pass attempt broken up in the end zone with no time remaining. UConn had a season-high six sacks, its most in a game since posting six against a Randy Edsall-coached Maryland team in 2012. The Huskies have won two in a row for the first time since a three-game streak in 2015. They will try to get to .500
Saturday at home against Missouri. -– Mike Anthony, The Hartford Courant

T9. Temple (3-5, 1-3): In a difficult year, the Owls suffered their most frustrating loss during Saturday’s 31-28 overtime defeat at Army. The winners forced overtime by scoring on a 16-yard scoring pass with one second to play in regulation, capping a 14-play, 79-yard drive in 1:31. Temple failed to send the game into a second overtime after missing a 27-yard field goal at the end of the first extra period. Redshirt junior QB Frank Nutile earned his first career start in place of injured Logan Marchi, and finished 20-of-29 for 290 yards, one TD and no interceptions. The banged-up Owls have a bye this week before hosting Navy on Nov. 2. -- Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer

T9. Tulsa (2-6, 1-3): Following an impressive win against Houston, the erratic Hurricane took another step back with a dismal offensive outing in Saturday's 20-14 loss at UConn. Tulsa didn't score until the final eight minutes but somehow had a chance to win on the final play, a pass broken up in the end zone. Up next are three consecutive non-Saturday games, starting with Friday’s visit to SMU. -– Kelly Hines, Tulsa World

11. Cincinnati (2-6, 0-4): The Bearcats lost their fifth straight game, 31-28 to SMU in overtime. UC rushed for a season-high 249 yards, led by Gerrid Doaks with 91. The game ended in overtime when Bearcats QB Hayden Moore was hit and then intercepted while attempting a short, underhand pass near the line of scrimmage. UC has a bye this week. -- Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer

12. East Carolina (2-6, 1-3): The Pirates managed their first comfortable win in nearly a year in a 33-17 victory against fellow bottom-dweller BYU on ECU's homecoming. Now the Pirates get a much-needed bye week before playing the final four games of the season. A third win will be difficult in that stretch, with road trips to Houston and Memphis sandwiched around home dates against Tulane and Cincinnati. Against the Cougars, PK Jake Verity steered ECU into the lead with
three third-quarter field goals before backup QB Gardner Minshew fired two TD passes in the fourth. -– Nathan Summers, The Daily Reflector

 




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USF men to play free exhibition Nov. 3

USF announced its men's basketball team will play a free home exhibition game against Division II Flagler on Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. in the Sun Dome.

Parking also is free.

The Bulls, whose roster features nine new players (eight of whom are eligible this season), were picked to finish last in the American Athletic Conference's preseason coaches poll. No Bulls player made the league's preseason all-conference first or second team.

"It was more of like a motivating thing because we know the guys we got, the things we do every day in practice, how good we can be," said PG Stephan Jiggetts, a graduate transfer from Fairleigh Dickinson. …

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Charlie Strong: Bulls don't need to talk a good game

USF coach Charlie Strong said his team lost its edge Saturday at Tulane when it got into a "chirping game" with the Green Wave players.

JOEY KNIGHT | Times

USF coach Charlie Strong said his team lost its edge Saturday at Tulane when it got into a "chirping game" with the Green Wave players.

As the coach of a preseason conference title favorite, Charlie Strong continually has warned his players they will get their opponents' best shot.

Verbal shots included. Saturday at Tulane, the Bulls returned fire, and Strong suggested it nearly cost them.

"I said to our guys the other night, 'We were up, and on defense we kind of lost our edge when we started talking, chirping,'" said Strong, whose team surrendered 21 unanswered second-half points in a 34-28 victory.

"And I said, 'Just keep playing. You don't need to chirp, just keep playing.' And then it turned into a chirping game. So now you lose your edge, you lose your focus."

Tulane collected 208 of its 415 yards in the game's final 18 minutes, scoring touchdowns on three of its last four possessions. Before that, USF appeared on pace for its fourth consecutive victory by a margin of 30 or more points.

Then the Green Wave began chipping -- and chirping -- away.

"But the great thing about it is, they owned up to it," Strong said of his players. "It's like, 'Coach, you know what, you're exactly right. If we had just kept playing...'"

INJURY UPDATE: Strong said Tuesday that freshman LB Keirston Johnson, sidelined since taking a hard shot to the chest against Temple, has practiced on a limited basis this week. Whether he plays Saturday against Houston remains uncertain.

"He practiced Sunday; we came out and did some walk-through. He practiced a little today," Strong said.

"He took a hit here in the chest, so we're just trying to make sure that if he takes another one that he's gonna be able to take it. We haven't had a chance to hit him there, we're not gonna hit him there. We won't know until we put him out there in the game."

Meantime, S Devin Abraham, who sustained an ugly turf burn during his interception at Tulane, indicated Tuesday he's fine.

ODDS AND ENDS: The Bulls will wear special camouflage-accented uniforms -- same ones they wore for Navy last season -- for Saturday's "Salute to Service" game against Houston.  ... Speaking of service folks, walk-on junior LB Anthony Beko is a former marine who served in Afghanistan. ... Mike Corey (play-by-play) and Rene Ingoglia (analysis) will work Saturday's game for ESPNU. ... Saturday's game will be the fifth this year in which Houston has faced one of the nation's top 15 scoring offenses. ... With a victory Saturday, Quinton Flowers ties Matt Grothe for second place on the school's career list for wins by a starting quarterback (28). Marquel Blackwell (30) holds the record. Flowers is only 329 total yards shy of becoming the fourth Bulls player ever to gain 10,000 for his career.

AUDIBLE: "I call Ruff a politician. I just think that Cameron Ruff one of these days is gonna be a politician, just how he carries himself. You can say something to Ruff and he can say something, and it's almost like E.F. Hutton. (Teammates) are gonna listen to him because they have the respect for him. They know who he is and what he represents." -- Strong on his fifth-year senior center, a Jesuit High alumnus

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Know the foe: Houston

Though only a sophomore, Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver (10) may be the American Athletic Conference's top NFL Draft prospect.

AP photo

Though only a sophomore, Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver (10) may be the American Athletic Conference's top NFL Draft prospect.

A look at Houston, which plays No. 17 USF on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium

Nickame: Cougars
Record: 4-3 (2-2 American Athletic Conference)
Wins: at Arizona, 19-16; vs. Rice, 38-3; at Temple, 20-13; vs. SMU, 35-22
Losses: vs. Texas Tech, 27-24; at Tulsa, 45-17; vs. Memphis, 42-38
Coach: Major Applewhite (first season, 4-4; was interim coach in Cougars' loss to San Diego State in 2016 Las Vegas Bowl)*

Offensive breakdown: While the Cougars clearly miss departed QB Greg Ward Jr. (the AAC West version of Quinton Flowers), they remain well-stocked offensively and average more than 440 yards. Problem is, they've mostly languished after halftime. The Cougars have been outscored 126-65 in the second half this season, totaling 14 fourth-quarter points in consecutive losses to Tulsa and Memphis. In the loss to Memphis, senior QB Kyle Postma fumbled twice and threw an interception in the final period, though Applewhite said lack of pass protection played a role. Postma lost a preseason QB battle to Texas A&M transfer Kyle Allen, but has started the last four games. While he's no Ward, he's also no slouch, throwing for 1,120 yards (five TDs, six INTs) and running for 200. His two primary targets, seniors Linell Bonner (45 catches, 465 yards) and Steven Dunbar (48 catches, 514 yards), rank fifth and sixth in the AAC, respectively, in receiving yards per game. Up front, Houston has used the same five starting linemen all season. On the ground, leading rusher Duke Catalon (112 carries, 496 yards, seven TDs) may be summoned to carry more of the load with second-leading rusher Dillon Burden (60 carries, 333 yards, four TDs) out a few weeks with torn right-elbow ligaments. "Where we've got to get better at running back is protecting the quarterback," Applewhite said. Protecting the ball would help too; Houston has committed 16 turnovers, most in the AAC.

Defensive breakdown: USF will devise its game plan to contain sophomore All-America DT Ed Oliver, arguably the league's best player and unquestionably its best NFL Draft prospect. A five-star recruit who chose to remain in his hometown for college, Oliver has 42 tackles (seven for loss), 1.5 sacks, six QB hurries, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick this season. "I can't say that we've played one like this, or coached against one like this in college, at this age," East
Carolina coach Scottie Montgomery said. A strong correlation probably exists between Oliver's harrassment and the fact Houston ranks 31st nationally in pass-efficiency defense (114.19). Then again, the Cougars also possess a veteran secondary. Senior nickel-back Khalil Lewis has seven tackles for loss, while S Garrett Davis has four interceptions. ILB Matthew Adams, the second-leading tackler, could miss a second consecutive game with a high-ankle sprain, the Houston
Chronicle reported Monday.

Odds and ends: The Cougars' loss to Memphis ended their streak of six consecutive wins against nationally ranked opponents. ... Senior John Leday ranks second in the conference with 26.3 yards per kick return. ... Houston has forced 140 turnovers since the 2013 season, most in Division I-A. ... The Cougars have no Floridians on their roster.

Audible: "When you're playing a really good opponent and it goes into the 13th, 14th and 15th rounds, you have to be making great decisions all the way through those rounds. Those early rounds don't count, it's how you finish the fight." -- Applewhite, whose team has allowed 42 fourth-quarter points over its last two games

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Flowers' passer rating not unblemished, just his record

USF quarterback Quinton Flowers totaled 265 yards and accounted for three touchdowns in Saturday's 34-28 win at Tulane.

AP photo

USF quarterback Quinton Flowers totaled 265 yards and accounted for three touchdowns in Saturday's 34-28 win at Tulane.

Don't count Charlie Strong among those in a mild tizzy over QB Quinton Flowers' pass efficiency, which has dipped modestly -- but not significantly -- in the last 12 months.

This time last season, Flowers had a 150.6 efficiency rating, with 15 touchdown passes, five interceptions and a completion percentage of 58.5 percent (117-of-200). This year, he has a 131.3 rating with 12 TDs, three interceptions, and a 51.4-percent completion rate (89-of-173).

Considering how the Bulls attempt more downfield shots in offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert's system, the disparity stands to reason. Flowers took several shots in Saturday's 34-28 win at Tulane, finishing 10-of-24 for 127 yards, with scoring passes of 38 and 28 yards to Darnell Salomon and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, respectively.

"No, it really isn't (a concern), because we're running the football too," Strong said Monday on the American Athletic Conference's weekly coaches teleconference.

"Quinton really don't care because when we need to make a throw and get a throw, we can get it. ... Some of those throws, they're deep balls and it's a 50-50 ball. Some of them we're getting and some we're not."

And for those suggesting Flowers' isn't being allowed to improvise with his legs as much as he did under Willie Taggart, you may have a legitimate beef in some red-zone instances (see Cincinnati). But overall, the statistics don't bear that out.

This year, he has gained 613 yards and scored seven TDs on 115 carries. Through seven games in 2016, he had 655 yards and seven TDs on 94 carries. …

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Peach pursuit: How the Group of Five's best fared in Week 8

UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton passed for 233 yards in the Knights' 31-21 victory Saturday at Navy.

Baltimore Sun photo

UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton passed for 233 yards in the Knights' 31-21 victory Saturday at Navy.

Each week henceforth, we'll take a look at how USF fared in comparison to the other serious Group of Five contenders for the New Year's Six bowl berth. The Group of Five conference champion ranked highest by the College Football Playoff committee earns the New Year's Six nod. Presuming that berth will be in the Peach Bowl (though it could be the Fiesta), we've devised a gauge of sorts measuring each team's Peach Bowl chances at this moment in time.

Peachy: In the driver's seat for a Peach Bowl berth
Ripening: A team to watch. Peach Bowl outlook getting stronger
Bruised: Peach Bowl chances took a recent hit
The Pits: Not a serious contender at this time


Boise State (5-2)
This week: defeated Wyoming 24-14
Next week: at Utah State
Don't discount the Broncos' New Year's Six odds, which have improved considerably after consecutive wins against San Diego State and Wyoming. Granted, some dominoes still have to tumble for Boise to get back into this thing, including USF and UCF both losing at least once. But if the Broncos can win out in a deep Mountain West, would the College Football Playoff committee rank them higher than a one-loss Bulls or Knights team? It's a pretty far-fetched hypothetical,
mainly because we don't see both UCF and USF losing a game.
Outlook: Ripening

Toledo (6-1)
This week: defeated Akron 48-21
Next week: at Ball State (Thursday)
Poor Toledo. Because the MAC appears so feeble this season, the Rockets could win out and still not make a dent in the CFP rankings (Last week they didn't receive a single vote in the AP poll). Had they upset Miami in south Florida in September, maybe the Rockets would be a serious player in this discussion. But no quality wins remain on their schedule. Not their fault.
Outlook: Bruised

Houston (4-3)
This week: lost to Memphis 42-38
Next week: at USF
Forget the Peach, the Cougars will be fortunate to make the Cure Bowl at this point. They might still be a force in the American Athletic Conference's West Division if their defense knew how to finish, but they've allowed 80 second-half points over their last two contests. This is a team at a crossroads as it prepares for USF.
Outlook: The pits

Marshall (6-1)
This week: defeated Middle Tennessee 38-10
Next week: vs. FIU
The Thundering Herd, behind junior QB (and Wharton High alumnus) Chase Litton, have won five in a row since their 37-20 loss to N.C. State. Again, chaos would have to occur in a couple of other conferences for Marshall to enter the New Year's Six conversation, but as long as it keeps winning we're keeping the Herd on this list.
Outlook: Bruised

Memphis (6-1)
This week: defeated Houston 42-38
Next week: vs. Tulane
Since being embarrassed by UCF, the Tigers have won three in a row, including triumphs against Navy and Houston in a six-day span. Tulane, Tulsa, SMU and East Carolina remain on Memphis' schedule, putting it squarely in the West Division driver's seat. If the Tigers can win out, then topple UCF or USF in the league title game, they could -- could -- find themselves as the highest-ranked Group of Five champ.
Outlook: Ripening

Navy (5-2)
This week: lost to UCF 31-21
Next week: Bye
The  Midshipmen have totaled eight turnovers -- a season's worth in a typical Midshipmen year -- in their losses to Memphis and UCF, nearly bumbling themselves right out of the West Division race. Technically, Navy still has a New Year's Six shot (Notre Dame, Houston and Army remain on the slate). Realistically, the Midshipmen are looking at the Military Bowl. 
Outlook: The pits

San Diego State (6-2)
This week: lost to Fresno State 27-3
Next week: at Hawaii
Only eight days ago, the Aztecs appeared destined to emerge as the top-ranked Group of Five team in the initial CFP rankings. Today, they're a longshot to even win the West Division of the Mountain West Conference. Consecutive losses to Boise State and Fresno State have, for all practical intents, dashed SDSU's New Year's Six aspirations. In Saturday's embarrassing home loss to Fresno, the Aztecs crossed midfield only three times on their final nine possessions.
Outlook: The pits

UCF (6-0)
This week: defeated Navy 31-21
Next week: vs. Austin Peay
By dispatching of Navy, the Knights cleared their last serious hurdle before their Black Friday showdown with USF. Like the Bulls, the Knights learned Saturday they can prevail in a tight game. But it appears their next potentially tight one won't arrive until that ballyhooed regular season finale. UCF's upcoming four foes: Division I-AA Austin Peay, SMU, UConn and Temple.
Outlook: Peachy

USF (7-0)
This week: defeated Tulane 34-28
Next week: vs. Houston
Despite their woeful fourth quarter Saturday night in New Orleans, the Bulls' New Year's Six outlook appears brighter today. San Diego State (56 points in last week's AP poll) no longer is a threat to leapfrog the Bulls in the CFP rankings, nor is Navy. The Peach is USF's for the plucking if it keeps winning.
Outlook: Peachy
  

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