SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — First-year South Florida coach Jeff Scott is looking forward to the gamble his Bulls are taking this Saturday in visiting No. 7 Notre Dame.
The 39-year-old Scott, fresh off a 27-6 opening victory over The Citadel, is planning to roll the dice and see how things work out against the Fighting Irish in the game that was hastily scheduled in August as a replacement.
“Where we are right now as a program, we’re playing with house money going into this game,” Scott said of the Bulls’ second visit to Notre Dame Stadium, where the Irish have a 19-game winning streak. “We can let loose as players and coaches and have fun and see where it all lands at the end of the game.”
Notre Dame overcame a sluggish start last week in a 27-13 win over Duke to open the season. Coach Brian Kelly is wary about this one-game hiatus from its one-season-only Atlantic Coast Conference schedule. He remembers USF’s visit for the 2011 season opener, a 23-20 upset of then-No. 16 Notre Dame.
“(Scott’s) certainly going to have a group of young men that are excited about this opportunity to play us at Notre Dame,” said Kelly, who is mindful that one of them is Bulls offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr., the 27-year-old son of the coach Kelly replaced in 2010. “(Weis is) a young, bright star in this profession who has done great things in a very short period of time as a coordinator.”
Coach and coordinator kept USF’s quick-tempo offense close to the vest and mostly on the ground last week with 302 rushing yards, led by running back Kelley Joiner Jr. (eight carries, 88 yards, one touchdown) and 5-foot-5 slotback Johnny Ford (71 yards on nine carries). Quarterbacks Jordan McCloud and Noah Johnson combined for 14-of-20 passing for 92 yards and Johnson added 49 more rushing.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, got 205 all-purpose yards (112 rushing, 93 receiving) from sophomore Kyren Williams in his first start at running back and 263 passing yards and one TD from grad QB Ian Book.
Even though Kelly and defensive line coach Mike Elson limited his playing time in 2019 to protect a year of eligibility, 6-foot-5, 257-pound sophomore Isaiah Foskey still managed five tackles, a QB hurry and a blocked punt.
“Using my hands – that’s what I feel limited me from being on the playing field,” said Foskey, who worked with fellow defensive end Adetokunbo Ogundeji on using their hands during the offseason. “My mentality is to fire off the ball, be explosive and use my hands a lot more.”
One of 11 linemen to see action against Duke, Foskey had two tackles, a QB sack, two QB hurries and one pass defended.
MOTHER KNOWS BEST
Junior wide receiver Joe Wilkins Jr., who played at North Fort Myers (Florida) High School, had his first four career receptions, good for 39 yards against Duke. The last was a leaping, 7-yard reception near the sideline to set up Williams’ 26-yard TD run in the third quarter.
Wilkins credited watching starter Ben Skowronek for being ready.
“I didn’t take my eyes off him; when I got in the game, I knew exactly what I was supposed to do,” said Wilkins, who had been limited by injuries and Notre Dame’s depth at the position. “Patience is a virtue. My mom always told me that.”
SOONER THAN EXPECTED
Scott, who was Dabo Sweeney’s offensive coordinator when the Tigers twice beat the Irish, expected to visit Notre Dame Stadium this Nov. 7 with No. 1 Clemson. His father Brad, USF’s chief of staff, visited as offensive coordinator of Florida State’s 1993 team that lost to Notre Dame, 31-24.
“The day after I took this job reality hit me that I’m not going to go to South Bend,” Scott said. “Now I am going to South Bend but I’m taking the Bulls instead.”
BACK “HOME” AGAIN
Weis got his interest in coaching from father Charlie Weis, the coach of Notre Dame from 2005-09. Weis Jr. attended nearby Saint Joseph High School and analyzed game film as a freshman during the school’s run to the 2007 state championship game and was on the sideline at times with his father.
“There may be some emotions a little bit when I hear the fight song (Victory March),” said Weis, who will be in the press box directing the offense. “But at the end of the day it’s just another game.”
USF RB Kelley Joiner Jr. was asked what he knew of Notre Dame’s football legends Knute Rockne, George Gipp and “Rudy.” He shook his masked face no three times.
“I didn’t do my research,” the smiling Joiner chuckled as reporters laughed.
“I just know they’ve been around for a long time,” junior linebacker Antonio Grier said. “They got a lot of history and tradition and things like that.”
AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall contributed to this report.