For USF head coach Willie Taggart, it’s about taking care of your own


It looks as if Willie Taggart has a little bit more of Jim Harbaugh in him than we thought.

Maybe we can throw in some Steve Spurrier and a Jimmy Johnson for good measure.

But give Taggart credit. He looked like Jesse James last Saturday trying to empty out the vault before the posse came so his high flying offense could add some cache to its coffers.

At least that’s the way it seemed in the final minutes of the University of South Florida’s victory over East Carolina.

Instead of taking a knee to finish up the Bulls’ 38-22 victory with East Carolina out of timeouts, Taggart had quarterback Quinton Flowers throwing the ball. He even threw a touchdown on the next to last play of the game that was waved off by a penalty.

Some people didn’t like what Taggart did. Others questioned the wisdom of having the Flowers, the heart and soul of his offense, risking an injury in a game that was already decided.

Others liked his moxie and Spurrier, wherever he was, had to be smiling.

While Taggart was trying to squeeze out an extra seven points, Harbaugh’s undefeated Michigan squad annihilated Rutgers 78-0.

When nightfall came both Harbaugh and Taggart, despite winning their respective games, took some criticism for not shutting down their offenses.

Harbaugh noted that he played his backups nearly the entire second half though he couldn’t give a bleep what you were thinking.

Taggart was adamant that he is not paid to shut down his offense nor has he seen any NCAA rules addressing the issue. He was also disappointed in how his offense played and felt it needed some extra work.

Let’s not forget in his first two years at USF, Taggart had one of the most anemic offenses in the country that almost cost him his job.

Manatee Hall of Fame coach Joe Kinnan offered some help as a consultant and said a high flying offense was the best antidote.

The Bulls (5-1, 2-0 AAC) are trying to win the American Athletic Conference title, and there are some tough games coming up.

Did you see what Navy did to Houston?

He could’ve added that coaching USF in its 20th year is more than just about wins and losses. It’s about improving attendance and the hope of getting an invite to the Big 12, which is known for the prolific offenses that Taggart is trying to showcase.

All those empty seats at Raymond James Stadium for USF’s homecoming suggested this program needs a jolt, so kudos to Taggart for supplying a few fireworks.

Nobody slays a dragon better than Harbaugh, but Taggart, his former assistant coach and long time pupil and friend, is learning fast.

Rutgers hadn’t lost that bad since former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano was at the helm in an 80-7 loss to West Virginia, and this was its worst shutout loss since an 80-0 defeat to Princeton in 1888.

Some people didn’t like the idea of Harbaugh going for two on a fake extra point when he was up 25-0, something he did when he was at Stanford to Pete Carroll at USC.

Now you could criticize Taggart for trying to get that extra seven points, but there are enough reasons to justify it, starting with the fact that USF is in that so-called Group of Five conference that gets unfairly tagged as being inferior to the teams in the Power Five conferences.

There are many teams in the Power Five that couldn’t win the AAC or even contend for a title, Rutgers being one of them. They are hidden by the big boys of their conference: see Ohio State, Clemson, Alabama.

But they have a recruiting edge because the Power Five teams get automatic berths to the best bowl games and are automatically considered for college football’s final four.

Did we mention money? The Power Five boys are hoarding all the cash and telling that other group to find your own cash. It leaves guys like Taggart to use what you might call desperate measures.

Rankings from the past season more than suggest a one-loss team from the Group of Five will not get one of the four playoff spots from any of the champions in the Power Five, and it was the same way under the old BCS.

Trying to recruit four and five-star players is not easy when you are in the Group of Five, which was evident when Florida State rolled over USF handing the Bulls their only defeat this season.

You need something special, and USF’s offense is special right now, ranked eighth nationally in scoring (44.5 ppg), 12th in rushing offense (260.5 yards per game) and 18th in total offense (502.7 yards per game).

Having a prolific scoring team helps with recruiting and could get the team into one of the better bowl games.

Only one team from the Group of Five (the highest ranked) is going to get a bid to a New Year’s Day bowl and right now Houston from the AAC and Boise State (Mountain West) are in a dog fight. So if you are going to get into that conversation you need more than an impressive won-loss record.

Harbaugh recruited Taggart to Western Kentucky out of Manatee High and they have remained close friends ever since. It seems as if the pupil has learned well from the teacher.

You take care of your own.

Up next

Who: UConn at South Florida

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

TV/radio: CBSSN/820 AM

State schedule

Wake Forest at FSU, 3:30 p.m., ESPN

N. Carolina at Miami, 3:30 p.m., ABC

Missouri at Florida, 4 p.m., SEC

Temple at UCF, 7:30 p.m., ESPNU