Third-year South Florida football coach Jeff Scott says facing No. 25 BYU on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa represents an opportunity for a “breakthrough moment” for his struggling program.

“If we are fortunate enough to play well and earn a victory Saturday, that will be a big moment for our process and our journey this season,” Scott said in a news conference Tuesday morning.

“At the end of the day, I don’t think that plays into it a whole lot. They have a very unique model that kinda works for them and their mission and everything that they do. I fully respect that. But at the end of the day, when they kick the ball off, I don’t really see that having a tremendous impact on the game one way or the other.” — USF coach Jeff Scott on BYU’s older players due to church missions

The Bulls went 2-10 last year, their only win over an FBS program coming against Temple (34-14).

They have lost their last five games, although they ended the season with a close, confidence-building 17-13 loss to rival Central Florida.

USF defeated BYU 27-23 in Tampa in 2019, but coach Charlie Strong was fired after the season and the Bulls went 1-8 in the pandemic-altered 2020 season, beating Citadel 27-6 in the opener before eight straight losses.

In his opening statement, Scott spent a lot of time talking about the Cougars, who defeated the Bulls 35-27 last year in Provo.

“We are taking on a really talented team. The more you dive in and really study BYU, I mean this is probably one of the best teams they have had in the last five or six years,” Scott said. “They’ve got 19 returning starters and a lot of experience coming back on a team that won 10 games last year and coach (Kalani) Sitake is doing a great job with his team and football program.”

Scott said BYU’s top-25 ranking is warranted and praised BYU QB Jaren Hall, who made his first college start in that 2019 game at the venue locals call “Ray-Jay.”

“To me, it starts with their quarterback, Jaren Hall. He is a fifth-year (junior), a really, really talented player,” Scott said. “He is going to be a draftable quarterback after this season. Throws the ball really well, runs really well. He is a guy that you have to account for with both his arm and his legs.”

Scott was Clemson’s co-offensive coordinator from 2015-19 and a member of the staff at his alma mater since 2008.

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“On paper, and looking at that coming back, they have a very complete team. Huge challenge for us.”

But like we talked about, with challenges come opportunities,” Scott said. “For us, to be able to kinda see where we are this year, with this team, it is going to be a great measuring stick to see where we are (against) a top-25 team in the first game.”

When Scott took questions, the first one referred to BYU’s missionary program and whether having “older” players gives the Cougars an advantage.

“At the end of the day, I don’t think that plays into it a whole lot. They have a very unique model that kinda works for them and their mission and everything that they do,” Scott said. “I fully respect that. But at the end of the day, when they kick the ball off, I don’t really see that having a tremendous impact on the game one way or the other.”

Here are more of Scott’s answers in regard to BYU:

On what they learned from last year’s 35-27 loss to BYU:

“We got to be able to eliminate the big plays. When you go back and look at this game last year, it really got away from us in the first quarter, because there were three big plays and all of a sudden it is 21-0. From then on, we played well. But when you give someone that big of a start it is really difficult.”

Cougars on the air


No. 25 BYU (0-0)


at South Florida (0-0)


Saturday, 2 p.m. MDT


Tampa, Florida


TV: ESPNU


Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM

On how important the BYU game is to USF’s program as a whole:

“For us, you look at four of the teams that are moving up to the Big 12, we play all four this year. So we are going to get an opportunity to see how we match up against them and we want to make sure that people in the landscape of college football the next time there is a chance for realignment, we want them to look at South Florida and say, those guys can compete and those guys deserve to move up. There are a lot of factors that go into that, but probably the No. 1 factor is winning on the field. And so there is no doubt that is important.”

On what makes BYU a successful program:

“Culture. They have got an incredible culture there at BYU. Coach Sitake does an exceptional job. … You are seeing that consistency, and last year and this year going into his best seasons, and so I think the biggest thing you see is you see a team that is disciplined. Very rarely do you see guys going the wrong direction.

“They are not giving up cheap plays. They know their scheme, defensively. Offensively, they know what they do. They play well together. There is a oneness, very similar to how we won at Clemson with the culture that we had. You play one of us, you play all of us. That is what you see when you turn on the video watching BYU. These guys play very, very well together, and they play with confidence, which comes from the success they have had in the past.”

BYU wide receiver Gunner Romney stretches out for a long reception during a game against South Florida at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. The Cougars and Bulls meet again this season, Saturday in Tampa. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News