TAMPA -- There is a saying in football that if you have two quarterbacks you really have none.
So what happens if you have three?
That question doesn't seem to bother USF head coach Willie Taggart, who opened up the quarterback competition this week following the Bulls' 34-17 loss to Cincinnati on Oct. 24.
It comes as USF (2-2, 3-5 AAC) plays arguably its most important game in the Taggart era when it faces Houston (4-3, 2-1) at 4 p.m. Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.
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USF's goal this year was to become bowl eligible, which means the Bulls have to win three of their final four games.
Taggart went through four quarterbacks last year in his first season. He settled on Mike White, who made his debut against Houston and played well in a loss.
But White has not performed up to Taggart's standards recently, and the coach said junior Steven Bench and true freshman Quinton Flowers are in the mix to take the job.
"We need some production, we need to score some points, and we need to get going," Taggart said. "I'm looking for the guy that's going to do everything in his power to not let this football team lose, a guy that's so competitive that no matter how tough it gets, bad or good, I'm going to win this ballgame."
For awhile it seemed White was that guy. But he struggled against Cincinnati and displayed a frustrated demeanor that Taggart didn't like. Bench replaced him early in the second half and went 9-for-14 for 147 yards and two touchdowns.
Flowers is the most athletic of the trio, but he has a tendency to throw interceptions going back to high school. He has thrown four passes this season, and two were picked off.
Each has his strengths, but Taggart was talking more about a guy possessing intangibles. Taggart described the person he was looking for: "A guy that's going to control this offense and inspire others to play hard for him. I think that's a big part of being a quarterback when you get guys to play for you."
Taggart never had to worry about being replaced when he played quarterback at Manatee High and Western Kentucky, but his skill set played a big role in inspiring teammates.
Houston head coach Tony Levine faced a similar situation recently and hasn't looked back since making a dramatic change at quarterback when he replaced St. Thomas Aquinas grad John O'Korn with versatile Greg Ward, who has played receiver and has been used as a punt returner.
Houston is 2-0 since the change. Ward was 29-for-33 for 268 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-10 victory over Temple last week.
But Taggart might want to make a change at quarterback because Houston ranks first in the AAC in pass defense and points allowed and is second in total defense. The Cougars have outscored their opponents 54-13 in the fourth quarter.
Taggart also will have to deal with top receiver Andre Davis sitting out the first half because he was ejected in the second half of the Cincinnati game.
"He threw a punch, and you can't do that. It was totally out of his character and really shocked me," Taggart said. "A lot of it was (because) of frustration, but you can't be that way, especially if you are a captain. That is selfish. It hurts your team."
USF won the first meeting between these teams 45-6 in 2001, when Houston finished 0-11. ... Houston is 2-5 in conference away games the last two years. ... Defensive tackle Derrick Calloway from Manatee High is second on the Bulls with three sacks and has 4.5 tackles for loss. ... USF continues to beef up its out-of-conference schedule, announcing this week it signed a home-and-home series with Georgia Tech for 2021 and '22. ... The Bulls' other out-of-conference games includes series with FSU, Wisconsin, Illinois, Maryland and Syracuse. ... USF also has agreed to a three-game series with Texas (2019, '22 and '24) with the '22 game slated for Raymond James Stadium. The agreement awaits approval from the Texas Board of Regents.