South Florida looks to get on track tonight with a home win over a talented FAMU team.


Joey JohnstonAthletics Senior Writer

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USF (0-1; 0-0 American)vs. Florida A&M (1-0; 1-0 SWAC)
Saturday, Sept. 9 • 7:00 P.M. •  Raymond James Stadium (65,000) • Tampa, Fla.
SURFACE: Bermuda Natural Grass
TV: ESPN+: Drew Fellios (PXP) & Patrick Murray (Analyst)
AUDIO: 102.5 FM & HD 2/TuneIn – Bulls Unlimited
SERIES: USF leads 4-0
STREAK: USF, 4 straight
IN TAMPA: USF leads, 4-0 
LAST TIME: USF won, 38-17, 3rd game of 2021 season
HOME OPENERS: 22-4, lost last two to BYU & Florida

After a full slate of learning experiences during the opener at Western Kentucky — plenty of positives, along with lots of needed corrections to find the winning edge — head coach Alex Golesh said the Bulls are excited to begin the home schedule with Saturday night’s game against the Florida A&M Rattlers at Raymond James Stadium.

“I think our staff is encouraged and I think our players are encouraged,” Golesh said Tuesday. “We’re turning the page, cleaning some things up, really hitting home on what the difference in the game was and moving on to FAMU.”

The Rattlers (1-0), a member of the Football Championship Subdivision, arrived with a 10-game winning streak after defeating Jackson State, 28-10, in the Orange Blossom Classic at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium.

Sixth-year Rattlers coach Willie Simmons, whose team was 9-2 last season and has posted back-to-back nine-win seasons, has the preseason SWAC Offensive Player of the Year in quarterback Jeremy Moussa, who passed for 2,700 yards and 21 touchdowns last year.

“You can give them whatever speech you want in playing an FCS team, but in reality, they’ve got really good players,” Golesh said. “They’ve got a quarterback who’s really efficient. They’ve got several playmakers on offense who can stretch the field vertically. They’ve got a powerful run game. They play with tempo, which our guys will be ready for. And defensively, they are very physical and fly around to the ball.

“It’s a good challenge for us. Our kids are hungry to play. Coming home, playing at night, I think our kids will be ready. Regardless of whatever division or league FAMU is in, you’ve got to be ready to play.”

Golesh can speak from experience.

In 2016, when he became tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator for Big 12 Conference member Iowa State, the Cyclones opened against FCS team Northern Iowa.

Final: Northern Iowa 25, Iowa State 20.

“So, I lived it,” Golesh said. “I think our guys understand what it is, whether it’s FBS-wise or FCS-wise. You just turn on the film. It’s a good football team. They understand that the expectation is we go win, but that’s our expectation every week. The process doesn’t change. Nothing changes.

“FAMU has our respect. They just went and beat one of the better teams in the country last season (Jackson State) by 18 points. We’re not approaching this any differently. If anything, you’re probably a bit tougher on them and saying, ‘Who are we to take anybody for granted?’ ”

Bulls players have received the message.

“We don’t discredit Florida A&M for being FCS,” center Mike Lofton said. “We don’t take anything away from them. They’re still ballplayers. They’ve got good players and veteran coaches who can dial things up. We’re not looking at it like we can take a play off here and there because we can’t. We need this game.”

“I don’t believe the team (opponent) matters,” defensive lineman Doug Blue-Eli said. “We have one mindset and that’s every week doing what we have to do to win, regardless of who we’re playing. FAMU does a lot of things well and obviously they’ve had a lot of success in the last few years, so we’re going to have to work hard (to win).”

Golesh said he was encouraged by several aspects of the season-opening 41-24 defeat at WKU, but was quick to point out that “there’s never going to be a moral victory or silver lining of any sort … we didn’t win the game and the standard is to win the game.”

“We made enough plays through three-and-a-half quarters to go in the game, but we didn’t make them at the very end and that’s when you’ve got to make them,” Golesh said.

Golesh said he was most pleased by the overall toughness displayed with the Bulls — and that was typified by redshirt freshman quarterback Byrum Brown, who rushed for 160 yards and two touchdowns, part of a 374-yard rushing effort that also featured a career-high 111 from Florida transfer Nay’Quan Wright.

Golesh said he expects toughness to be part of the team’s identity moving forward.

Playing at home under the lights should make for a nice environment, Golesh said.

“You’d love for it to be an incredible crowd Saturday night in Tampa,” Golesh said. “We hope our alumni base comes out and our students to be there in full force, rocking and rolling to support these guys.

“It’s an exciting brand of football. We’ve got an offense that’s fun to watch. We’ve got a defense that flies around and makes a bunch of plays. Hopefully it’s the best thing in town Saturday night. The environment is real and it changes games. I saw it for two years (at Tennessee, where he was offensive coordinator). You can change the course of a game by having an incredible environment.”

–     #GoBulls –