TAMPA, Fla. – Keep it simple: that’s the motto that USF defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan is preaching more than ever this week as the Bulls (2-2) prepare for their first road game of the season at No. 19 Wisconsin (2-1).
“If they beat you because they’re just better than you, that’s one thing. But if they beat you because you didn’t know what you were doing and you’re standing around trying to figure things out… we’re not doing that,” said Coach Bresnahan. “We’re going to stay very, very simple and let our guys play fast, go make plays and try to create turnover situations.”
But stopping Wisconsin star running back Melvin Gordon, a preseason Heisman Trophy contender, won’t be so simple.
On Saturday against Bowling Green, Gordon ran the ball for 253 yards on 13 carries with five touchdowns, tying a school record for the Badgers. Now averaging 8.26 yards per carry, the junior standout shares the NCAA career record for yards per carry with Army’s Glenn Davis (1943-46).
“Nobody’s going to stop him. You’ve got to control him,” said Coach Bresnahan. “The first and foremost thing is you’ve got to eliminate the explosive plays. So, gap integrity and the run fits, playing with a swarming approach where you get hats around the ball, playing with a fanatical effort – that’s all so important to not letting him get yards after contact, because he’s evasive, he spins, he jump-cuts, all the things a really good back does.”
While Wisconsin junior quarterback Tanner McEvoy is averaging 84.3 yards on the ground, the signal-caller struggled in the air against LSU in the Badgers’ opening loss when he went 8 of 24 for 50 yards and two interceptions. The Bulls are looking to capitalize on turnovers from deep passes by Wisconsin.
It will be the first meeting between the teams, and the Bulls are preparing for a hostile crowd at Camp Randall Stadium, which holds more than 80,000 fans. With 19 new USF players in the two deep, six redshirt freshmen and six true freshmen, senior defensive tackle Todd Chandler has given the underclassmen some words of advice.
“The fans are going to be yelling, saying whatever they have to say to get us out of our game; we’ve just got to focus on our assignments, focus on what we came up there to do – and that’s just take care of business,” Chandler said.
At practice this week, the music has been blaring at an ear-splitting decibel.
“During practices, Coach Trae Hackett – the DJ we call him out here during practice – he put on loud crowd noises. That helps us out big time when it comes to facing big schools,” said linebacker Nigel Harris.
Wisconsin has won 31 consecutive non-conference games at home. But that’s just motivation for this defense.
“We love it. We live for stuff like that. We love being the underdogs. That’s just extra fuel on our fire,” Chandler said.