These are the times that try men's souls.
Willie Taggart knows it. He won't run from it. There is no place to hide anyway.
Taggart's USF football team was embarrassed 49-17 by N.C. State on Saturday. It was the same Wolfpack team that gave up 34 points to Old Dominion and barely got by Georgia Southern 24-23.
"We physically got beat in this game. We didn't play well enough to beat a good football team," Taggart said. "They physically got after us, especially in the trenches and on both sides of the ball. I felt like that was a big difference."
Taggart understands the fan base is unhappy. All the empty seats in the second half shouted out that fact.
OK, so let's call a meeting.
You are a USF football fan and you love Willie Taggart.
Is this a dichotomy?
So you are feeling lost. We all feel your pain. This is not what Jim Leavitt had in mind when he started this program in 1997.
"It (our defense) was frustrating. We weren't playing disciplined football. We didn't play the gaps like we are supposed to and did a poor job of tackling in space," Taggart said. "Some of things we did well defensively last week we didn't do well."
You might not like this solution, but here is what we can see. Read it and weep if you wish.
Taggart has some miracles in his past.
We are not kidding.
Look it up.
His miracle work began at his alma mater, Manatee High, and extended to college as a player and a coach. He was 2-10 in his first year at Western Kentucky after inheriting an 0-12 squad. He started the next season 0-4, losing 40-14 to Navy and 44-16 to Indiana State.
Then he beat Middle Tennessee in double overtime and finished the season 7-5, losing only to No. 1-ranked LSU after the slow start.
There was the miracle in L.A. when 41-point underdog Stanford upset USC at the Coliseum. Taggart was the Stanford running backs coach and predicted the Cardinal would win.
Nothing went right against N.C. State (3-0). The Bulls (1-2) were even 0-4 on replay calls.
Chris Dunkley returned a punt for what seemed like an 80-yard TD, but it was called back because of a hold. It was 7-7 at the time.
On another play, quarterback Mike White threw what looked like an incomplete pass and it was a ruled a fumble. N.C. State recovered on the Bulls 19 and scored five plays later to make it 21-7.
It turned out those calls didn't matter -- or maybe they did. Maybe the defense would've played better if the Bulls were in the game.
"I am more alarmed with our offense. If we can get some first downs, our defense is not on the field a lot," Taggart said. "We have to be able to run the football, and we are not running like I know we are capable of doing."
Some of the players, including White and defensive backs Nate Godwin and Jamie Byrd, said the Bulls were not mentally ready to play and there was a lot of miscommunication on defense. It's a reason Jacoby Brissett completed 20 of 29 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns and the Wolfpack had 589 total offensive yards.
White completed only 4 of 16 passes for 82 yards, and 75 came on a touchdown pass to freshman Ryshen Bronson. Marlon Mack, who came into the game as the fourth-leading rusher in the country, had 55 yards on 12 carries.
Taggart said he still believes in the team and sees a successful season.
"I didn't have these guys ready to play; it's on me. But I see these guys in practice every day, and I know what they can do," he said. "We have good players and guys who can make plays."
The number of people who share that view is dwindling, but this is a short week and things can change quickly. USF opens American Athletic Conference play Friday night at home against Connecticut. A win would alter the landscape.
Alan Dell, Herald staff writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.