HOUSTON (AP) — South Florida coach Charlie Strong is looking for more consistency from his team after it was tested by UConn last week.
The No. 21 Bulls (7-0, 3-0 American) will look to set a record for the best start in school history — while also keeping pace with fellow undefeated UCF atop the American Athletic's East Division — when they visit Houston (6-1, 3-0) on Saturday.
"We have to be consistent, and that's what we haven't been," Strong said. "We might play a really good half of defense and then the next week is bad. You play a really bad half of offense and then the next half is good, so the consistency is what we need to get and we need to put it all together."
The Bulls hung on for a 38-30 win over the Huskies after a sluggish first half. Despite piling up 611 yards, including 346 yards rushing, South Florida had to put together a strong second half to get the win.
"It's about executing," Strong said. "You look at our offense, and I think we are the No. 11 offense in the country averaging over 600 yards. We can score with people, and once we get going, we have enough weapons we can match people."
The Cougars will be a tough road test with a dynamic offense and a defense led by defensive tackle Ed Oliver, who is expected to be a top pick in next year's draft. For the Bulls, who remain in the conversation for the possible of Group of Five spot in New Year's Six bowls, the game is the biggest they have had this season.
"We know what we are up against," Strong said. "We know we are going into someone else's territory. I told them it's going to be a hornet's nest. We just have to be game ready to take on anything that comes at us."
Houston coach Major Applewhite listed Oliver as questionable for the game with a bruised knee early in the week. Oliver, who has been discussed in the Heisman Trophy conversation, has 51 tackles, 13 ½ tackles for losses and three sacks this season.
CRONKRITE GOES FOR RECORD
South Florida running back Jordan Cronkrite is looking for his sixth straight 100-yard rushing game, which would set a Bulls record. Quinton Flowers in 2016 and Marlon Mack in 2015 each had five straight 100-yard rushing games. Cronkite, who rushed for 103 yards against UConn, has rushed for 860 yards and six touchdowns this season.
"Jordan's a complete back," Strong said. "He's big and strong enough where he can run inside. Then he's quick enough where he can get outside and outrun people. He's physical enough where he can take on any type of pass-rusher."
Quarterback D'Eriq King rallied the Cougars for a 28-24 win at South Florida last season, the Bulls' first loss of the year. King, who threw for 137 yards and a touchdown and rushed for a game-winning 20-yard touchdown with 11 seconds left, has started every game this season. He has thrown for 1,984 yards and 23 touchdowns and ran for another nine scores.
"What he's done from that point on is where all the credit goes," Applewhite said. "How hard he's worked, the time he's put in with coach (Kendall) Briles and his teammates, and continuing to strengthen his leadership role and strengthen the competitive muscle of our football team. He is a tough, fierce competitor and you have to have that at quarterback and he's done a great job."
FRESHMEN CONTRIBUTING ON USF DEFENSE
Redshirt freshmen Mekhi LaPointe and Nick Roberts led the Bulls defense last week with 11 and 10 tackles, respectively, and Roberts had a 61-yard interception return to set up a late touchdown. Roberts is second on the team with 46 tackles and two interceptions, while LaPointe has 30 tackles, including two for losses.
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