By Matt Manuri
The South Florida Bulls are set to host the Rutgers Scarlet Knights tonight at Raymond James for a head-to-head Big East showdown. Since joining the Big East in 2005 the Bulls have gone 0-8 in Thursday night appearances. As if that stat isn’t disheartening enough, the Bulls have not fared well in the series trailing the Scarlet Knights 5-2.
Tonight the Bulls will attempt to put an end to the dreaded ‘Thursday Night Curse’ & earn their first conference win of 2012. Here are the keys for the Bulls to take this crucial step towards the elusive Big East Title:
The Bulls must shut down the Scarlet Knights big play maker #17 WR Brandon Coleman (6’6, 220). Coleman used his height to turn mismatches into big plays down field in 2011, reeling in a 92-yard reception against UConn & an 86-yarder in the Pinstripe Bowl against Iowa State. Coleman ended 2011 with 17 receptions for 552 yards (32.5yds/rec.) & 6 TDs. Coleman has not let off the gas in 2012 posting 4 receptions for 89 yards (22.3yds/rec.) & 3 TDs through Week 2. Another big Knight to watch out for is #10 TE D.C. Jefferson (6’6, 258). The Bulls will rely heavily on Kayvon Webster & JaQuez Jenkins to limit Coleman’s production this evening.
The Scarlet Knights finished 92nd in Total Offense, 108th in passing yards, T-9th in interceptions thrown, & T-31st in sacks allowed in 2011. The Rushing game didn’t fare much better finishing 53rd. The interception prone Scarlet Knights QB #15 Gary Nova tossed nine of the sixteen 2011 interceptions & has already given two away in 2012 against the lackluster defenses of Tulane & Howard. The Bulls secondary will need to capitalize on every opportunity to create turnovers to allow the Offense to control the time of possession. The Bulls Offense needs to continue to produce, but more importantly needs to sustain drives long enough for the Defense to return to the field well rested. The seven meetings of these two units have been decided by an average margin of 12-points, with the last two games being decided by 3-points or less. Every tic of the clock this evening is going to be precious, prepare for a barn burner that most likely will come down to a FG.
Final Score: 24-21 Bulls.