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irish insider

Bulls’ coach Scott excited at chance to face Irish

| Friday, September 18, 2020

South Florida head coach Jeff Scott has met Brian Kelly on the football field before. However, when Scott leads South Florida into Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday night, he will be playing a much, much larger role. 

Scott was a wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator with Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers. But this time, he will be lacking the sheer talent that he had at Clemson. He does, however, bring years of experience and a staff with impressive coaching pedigree down to USF. In his first year as head coach with the Bulls, Scott is attempting to build something special down in Tampa, though he recognizes that a significant challenge lies ahead of the Bulls on Saturday.

“There is no doubt this will be as a big challenge as we’ve faced in a long time,” Scott said. 

The last game the Bulls played in Notre Dame Stadium in 2011 was not a game Irish fans look back fondly on. It was sloppy not only for Brian Kelly and then-Irish quarterback Tommy Rees — who opened the season with a loss — but also in terms of the weather. The game ended up lasting six hours and was stopped twice because of a lightning delay. Then second-year head coach Skip Holtz, son of legendary Irish head coach Lou Holtz, earned a victory for South Florida. 

Observer File Photo

Former Irish Quarterback Tommy Rees, now the offensive coordinator, looks to lead the Notre Dame offense against South Florida. Rees replaced Dayne Chryst in the second half of Notre Dame’s 23-20 loss to the Bulls in 2011.

A similar storyline is starting to unfold with this game as Charlie Weis Jr. will be returning more than a decade after his father was leading the Irish, this time with a role on the opposite sideline as USF’s offensive coordinator.

Scott said he is confident in his youthful coaching staff and while he sits at 1-0 as a head coach right now with a win against The Citadel last week, he feels his team can play without any added pressure. The mentality, Scott said, is that the team has nothing to lose playing Notre Dame, even if it results in a loss on the scoreboard, because preparing to play and matching up against this Irish team will be a valuable lesson for the Bulls in the future.  

“This is a point in our program where, really, our guys are going to be able to go play loose, play confident and play free,” Scott said. “I’m looking forward to the day where we have a chance to play in a game like this where we’re expected to win the game. We’re not there yet, at all. We’re going from playing an FCS opponent to playing a potential national championship team in seven days. I think it’s great for us as a team and coaches and players because we get an opportunity to kind of see where we are. I would imagine everybody that we play after this week is somewhere in between [the talent levels of] these first two games.”

Regardless of the outcome, Scott is excited to coach a game at Notre Dame, where he feels his players will get an opportunity to see some better competition and perform on a larger stage.

“It’s a big deal. When the Texas game got cancelled, our players were really disappointed because they were looking forward to going and playing on a big stage against a … power opponent,” Scott said. “When [vice president of athletics] Michael Kelly was able to get it worked out for us to go to Notre Dame and he asked me my opinion, I said, ‘Absolutely.’ This will be a great opportunity for our program, for our players, for our coaches.”

The Bull’s will have their work cut out for them this week, but Scott is embracing the challenge and is overall excited for a Saturday night in South Bend. 

“For our program and for our young men to have that experience is something I know that they’ll cherish for the rest of their life,” he said. 

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