Sun, 23 Sep 2018

No. 18 South Florida looks to stay unbeaten vs. Cincinnati

Sports Xchange
11 Oct 2017, 14:30 GMT+10

No. 18 South Florida hosts Cincinnati on Saturday in an American Athletic Conference battle between two first-year coaches who have gotten off to opposite starts at their new programs.

Charlie Strong has the Bulls off to a 5-0 start in his first year at South Florida. The Bulls (5-0, 2-0 AAC) are averaging 44.8 points per game and are outscoring opponents by an average of nearly 25 points per game.

A win over the struggling Bearcats on homecoming Saturday would match South Florida's best start ever.

"You have a really good football team," Strong said this week. "We just need the support and we need everybody onboard.

"We don't talk about how many games we've won in a row, we don't even mention that (to players)," Strong added. "I may not have to say anything about our record. It's just getting ready for the next game."

Things haven't been nearly as rosy for Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell, who came over from Ohio State after 15 seasons as an assistant at his alma mater. It hasn't been an easy transition for Fickell, who admitted this week that things had been tougher than expected.

The Bearcats (2-4, 0-2 AAC) have lost three in a row and are coming off of a 51-23 drubbing by Central Florida. Cincinnati allowed UCF to score on each of its possessions and surrendered more than 500 yards of offense in just three quarters, before inclement weather moved in and forced officials to call the came before the fourth quarter.

The Bearcats have lost six consecutive conference games dating back to last season. Their two wins this year have come against Austin Peay and Miami-Ohio.

"I haven't been in a whole lot of these situations," Fickell told reporters this week. "But what is most draining is when you're working so darn hard, you've committed so darn hard to doing something and then you don't get the results you want. Those are the things that go through my head. Where are these guys? Because they've done everything we've asked them to do and then they don't get the results that you want.

"That's when you look them in the face and say that's a part of life," Fickell added. "We told you from the get-go you could rip your chest open and hand us your heart, do everything we ask you to do and guess what it guarantees you? Nothing. And we all live in that ADD world that we want it now. When you want it right now that makes it more difficult."

The Bearcats have their hands full against a South Florida offense that is led by dual-threat quarterback Quinton Flowers. Flowers has thrown 10 touchdown passes and has run for five more, and he is the center piece of a physical, balanced attack. Running backs Darius Tice and D'Ernest Johnson, each have rushed for more than 400 yards, and six different players have touchdown receptions.

"We're a physical football team," Strong told reporters during a Tuesday press conference. "You have to be physical because if you're physical on offense, you're going to be physical on defense. That's the way you practice."

Cincinnati could not match up with Central Florida's physicality or speed. It won't get any easier against the Bulls.

"We're holding up pretty good," Cincinnati senior linebacker Jaylyin Minor said. "With the coaches and the chemistry that we have it's something that we've learned to deal with. We have to be there for each other. There isn't anybody else outside this building. It really doesn't matter. When it comes right down to it, we have to be there for each other.

"We have to learn to grow as a team and handle adversity and look at the bigger picture. We still have a lot more to go in the season. You just can't look at the bad things that have happened or the games that we haven't won. We've just got to keep moving forward. (Fickell) keeps us up no matter what and tells us that we can't get down about the bad things."

South Florida won last year's game between the two teams 45-20 in Cincinnati. The Bearcats turned it over four times and were shut out in the second half.

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