Michigan State (1-0) takes on South Florida (0-1) at noon Saturday (ESPNU). Adam Fenstra, who covers the Bulls for South Florida’s student paper, The Oracle, provides us with more insight in this question and answer session.
Q: What’s the mood around the program following Saturday’s disappointing showing in the season-opening loss to Football Championship Subdivision school McNeese State?
Fenstra: From a team point of view, the loss showed Taggart that his team isn’t as far along as he thought they were. He certainly wasn’t expecting such a one-sided loss. The loss shows that Taggart’s team isn’t made of players with a winning attitude just yet. The mood of the fans however, is very sour. They seem to have given up on the ‘new-look Bulls’ very quickly with mocking Taggart via social media.
Q: How surprising was what unfolded Saturday to you?
Fenstra: It wasn’t surprising that McNeese played hard. They had nothing to lose and as one of the better FCS teams, the Bulls losing wasn’t too farfetched. With that being said, the fashion in which it happened was very shocking.
Q: What’s the vibe surrounding South Florida breaking off from the Big East and moving into the newly formed American Athletic Conference?
Fenstra: For football, breaking away from the Big East just reinforces the Bulls’ mentality of a new start for the team. With a less than impressive season last year, coming into this season with a new coaching staff created the opportunity for the Bulls to start fresh. But it’s overshadowed by the hype surrounding the hiring of Taggart.
Q: Willie Taggart helped turn around Western Kentucky quickly. Is the vibe there that he can make a quick impact with the Bulls?
Fenstra: Well, Taggart only won two games during his first year coaching at WKU. Following that year he went 7-5 two straight seasons. The vibe among fans is that he won’t turn it around this year and they may be right. This team was mostly recruited by (Skip) Holtz so it isn’t yet Taggart’s team. I feel the move by athletics in hiring Taggart was more for long term, so overall the vibe is that he will turn things around — just not overnight.
Q: Obviously it wasn’t seen Saturday, but what kind of impact can Notre Dame transfer defensive end Aaron Lynch have on this defense?
Fenstra: At this point, his biggest impact is his own hype. He attracts attention and double teams leaving other talented lineman such as Luke Sager and Ryne Giddins open to make plays. In the future, his speed, strength and length can match that of Jason Pierre-Paul.
Q: The Bulls have a young offense, who is someone to watch or a key player on that side of the ball?
Fenstra: Two players to look for in the upcoming game would be running back Marcus Shaw and receiver Stephen Bravo-Brown. Shaw is going to continue to be a workhorse for the team taking handoffs and catching passes from the backfield. Bravo-Brown could make big plays given that Andre Davis is someone who attracts extra coverage. Bravo-Brown showed potential with a 59-yard TD in the last game.
Q: South Florida has pulled off some upsets on the road over the past six years, winning at Notre Dame, Florida State and Auburn. How do the Bulls win Saturday’s game?
Fenstra: It’s all in the attitude. They can’t get down on themselves when things look bad. That’s what killed them more than anything last game. Also, the quarterback position has to be consistent throughout the game’s entirety.