TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 25: Linebacker Deiontrez Mount #48 of the Louisville Cardinals sacks quarterback Bobby Eveld #13 of the South Florida Bulls November 25, 2011 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
I mean, I don't hate them personally. But after having to watch this team play 11 games, I can't think of a USF football team that I've enjoyed watching less than this one. It might be my least favorite USF team in any sport (although last year's basketball team would have an argument).
Here, in no particular order, is a list of the things I hate about this team:
-- They remind me of an NFL team. But not in a good way. It's because top to bottom, this team acts like they are afraid to lose. They play everything close to the vest, like they want to win every game 20-17. They want to play the field position game even though they're horrible at it. It's like pulling teeth to get them to take a "risk" like going for it on 4th and 3 from the opponents' 35-yard line. And they only did that because Louisville called a timeout, and even then they felt the need to head-fake the Cardinals by rushing the offense on the field at the last second and going on a quick count. It paid off with the Lindsey Lamar touchdown (by the way, nice of him to finally make an impact on a game). But that's pretty much an automatic go-for-it right there.
-- Turns out Skip Holtz is not a good game coach, either. I think you know I put a lot of stock in a coach's ability to manage game situations. Last year wasn't so bad, but this season Skip is making at least one crazy decision per game, whether it's mangling his timeouts or doing something strategically unwise. This week, after his team took a 17-3 lead with 35 seconds left in the half, he decided to squib kick for no good reason. I get that Louisville ran the opening kickoff back for a score against Connecticut last week, and your own coverage units have been weak. But even if you had covered the squib kick well, the Cardinals would have still had the ball on like the 40 or 45-yard line with two timeouts and enough time to get into field goal range. Instead, Senorice Perry returned it 54 yards, giving Teddy Bridgewater enough time to get Louisville a touchdown. There's seven points completely wasted out of fear and bad decision-making. How much different is the game if USF leads 17-3 at halftime instead of 17-10?
-- Undisciplined plays at the worst possible times. That's been a hallmark of the last four games. The five personal fouls against Cincinnati. Mike Jeune trucking a Rutgers defender at the end of a punt return to cost USF 15 precious yards when they were trying to run out the clock. And today, Matt Walsh taking a ridiculous personal foul after Maikon Bonani had somehow uncorked a 72-yard punt to get the Bulls out of a hole. It would have tied Devin Sanderson's school record if it had counted. Instead, Louisville made USF punt it again, and out came Justin Brockhaus-Kann. He miraculously got off a halfway decent punt, but the net result was that Walsh committed a 39-yard penalty. It kept USF in a field position hole, and then when Andre Davis fumbled at the start of their next possession, the Cardinals had an easy time putting the game away.
-- I want to break things when USF has to punt. There is no way Chris Veron isn't better than Brockhaus-Kann. I refuse to believe that he isn't. We've watched Brockhaus-Kann slowly get worse over two consecutive seasons. He's like the anti-Brad Wing now. All he can do is pop the ball up in the air and make the defender fair catch it 28 or 30 yards down field. Today he hit one of the shortest punts I've ever seen that wasn't shanked or affected by the wind. It went about 25 yards, then kicked backwards and turned into a 17-yarder. At this point Holtz and Vernon Hargreaves owe it to everyone to let Veron punt in a game.
-- You know they're going to screw it up when they get a lead now. Blew a late lead against Cincinnati. Blew a 14-point lead in the last seven minutes against Rutgers. Blew another 14-point lead today. There's no point getting your hopes up with this team, because one way or another they'll figure out a way to give it up. They will start blowing coverages, or the special teams will collapse, or the offense will go into a shell, or something else. At least there's some morbid curiosity of how they will manage to give away each game, since it's different every time.
-- The excuses are making me sick. "We're four plays away from being 9-1!" Bullshit! That's what losers say! You know what you call teams who keep finding ways to lose? You call them bad football teams, because that's what they are. And the reason Holtz can even make that excuse is because his team plays like an NFL team that's scared to open it up and take chances, even smart chances. That makes every mistake even more important.
-- This team has finally undone all of the community's excitement for USF football. The fan base is now all the way back to where it was before Matt Grothe showed up, because they're tired of watching an unexciting, uncharismatic, losing football team. It's going to take a long time to get that back, if it ever comes back, now that USF has apparently decided they're perfectly OK with doing nothing while their conference collapses all around them and they sink into permanent mid-majorhood.
-- If Skip Holtz goes to UNC, Doug Woolard has to go too. I haven't been willing to take that step yet, but if Holtz leaves, Doug Woolard cannot be allowed to hire the next USF football coach. The fans would go absolutely berserk if Holtz was allowed to get away after just two years, and it would cast a giant spotlight on what a mess this athletic department is. But even if Woolard survived that, you know what you'd probably get if he got to replace Holtz? A coach that is exactly like Woolard... risk-averse, safe, uncharismatic, dull, and cheap. Basically what you have now, at half the price.
If Holtz leaves, USF has to make a splash, something to get the fans and the donors and the community excited again. It's not the time to go out and get some no-name coach from the MAC, or like Larry Fedora or someone. Things need to change, quickly.