Commentary | USF’s ship sinking fast under Holtz

October 23, 2011 

Is there a doctor in the house?

We’ll even take Dr. Lou, that jovial fella who talks college football on ESPN.

His son is in need of help and even a fake doctor might be able to offer some comfort for Skip Holtz and his University of South Florida football program, which is lying on its Big East deathbed.

The pain is excruciating. The Bulls are 0-3 in the Big East for the first time in the seven years they’ve been in the league.

Holtz said earlier in the week that his coaching staff has an obligation to turn USF football into a winning product.

He hasn’t been able to do that for three straight games, which leads us to believe he has an obligation to look at himself and his coaching staff.

The crescendo of boos that cascaded down on the Raymond James Stadium turf just before halftime when he didn’t call a timeout with 24 seconds left and a third and goal at the Cincinnati 2 told Skip it’s time to look in the mirror.

He called the timeout with three seconds left, giving up a play, and settled for a 20-yard field goal that tied the game at 10.

It was a positive in that it showed the fans care.

It also showed they know something about football.

The Bulls lost by three points.

Holtz and his staff were showered with boos as they went into the locker room, but after the game he defended the decision.

“I didn’t want to take a chance and not get any points,” Holtz said.

Either Holtz surrendered to fear or didn’t have enough confidence that quarterback B.J. Daniels would throw the ball away on third down.

But it was Daniels who kept USF in the game, completing 31 of 47 passes for a school-record 409 yards and three TD tosses. He led the Bulls with 54 net yards rushing.

And it was Daniels who sounded like a leader you should follow after the game, shrugging off the disappointment of seeing two of his touchdown runs called back because of holding penalties.

“It’s definitely tough to come back after three straight losses, but we are all men and we are playing for pride right now,” Daniels said. “We are not going to duck our heads into the sand and throw in the towel. You get knocked down and you’ve got to pick yourself up. The points we left on the field were unfortunate, but it happens.”

The Bulls were flagged 10 times for 109 yards. In the third quarter, they had six penalties for 60 yards. Three were for holding, and two were personal fouls.

That’s the mark of an undisciplined team, and that’s on the coaching staff. Among the 10 penalties were two for roughing the passer.

“I don’t know what a penalty is anymore, but I want to see the film before I jump on any of my players,” Holtz said. “We shouldn’t be pointing fingers at anyone. Everyone in that locker room lost the game. The head coach is 0-3 and the coordinators are 0-3.”

Despite all the mistakes, USF had a chance to win when it led 34-30 with 1:21 left in the game and Cincinnati had a first and 10 at its own 30.

Unfortunately, the Bearcats moved downfield as if they were conducting passing drills without a defense.

The Bulls’ problems began long before that final drive.

There was a facemask penalty on a Cincinnati punt that led to a Bearcats field goal. There was a botched hold on a field goal attempt that cost USF another three points. There were opportunities for turnovers the Bulls couldn’t get. There were Cincinnati receivers wide open for a good part of the day.

USF defensive coordinator Mark Snyder didn’t have an answer for Cincinnati’s winning touchdown drive.

“They made plays and kept the ball alive. It was him (Collaros) keeping the play alive for a long period of time,” Snyder said. “We’ve had way, way too many penalties. It’s something we’ve been talking about and will continue to talk about. We had way too many roughing-the-quarterback calls. I know that has to stop.”

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 745-2112.

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