University of South Florida coach Skip Holtz said Sunday night he's still considering changes to his beleaguered defense – whether it's personnel or shifts to coaching responsibilities – in the wake of a brutal 37-36 homecoming loss against the Syracuse Orange.
But Holtz's biggest adjustment this week will be playing without senior running back Lindsey Lamar, USF's leading rusher, who suffered a likely season-ending clavicle injury. That's more bad news for the Bulls (2-6, 0-4 Big East Conference), who carry a program-record six-game losing streak into Saturday night's home game against Connecticut.
Lamar had 10 carries for 145 yards against Syracuse, including an 80-yard touchdown run, and became just the fifth USF player to register back-to-back 100-yard rushing games. He was injured during the fourth quarter and taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he underwent a non-surgical procedure. He was released Sunday afternoon.
"At points last night, it was pretty serious,'' Holtz said of Lamar, who has rushed for 475 yards (7.2-yard average) this season. "I understand it was a fractured clavicle. There were complications from it internally. He had a hard time breathing. To have it all end is just a shame.''
Holtz stopped short of calling it a season-ending injury, but said, "I know he's out this week and he could be done (for good).''
Other notable USF injuries included WR Derrick Hopkins (knee), OG Danous Estenor (ankle) and TE Evan Landi (ankle). "Right now, I wouldn't think we'd have all of them (against UConn),'' Holtz said.
Visiting Lamar in the hospital, assessing other injuries and holding a day-after workout comprised much of Sunday for Holtz.
After losing against Syracuse, when USF blew a 20-point halftime lead and surrendered the winning touchdown with three seconds remaining, Holtz sounded like he was primed to make big changes. He said "we can't stay status quo'' on defense. But one day later, he had no specific plans.
"I don't want to watch we watched Saturday night,'' Holtz said. "I don't want to sit there and watch 520 yards of offense go up and down the field. I don't want to watch a lead be taken away from us late in the game. I don't want to watch that anymore.''
Much speculation has been directed toward the status of defensive coordinator Chris Cosh, in his first USF season after being hired away from Kansas State. During the losing streak, USF's defense (ranked 67th nationally) has three times failed to protect a lead in the final minutes. It happened again Saturday night against Syracuse.
Holtz said he's not averse to firing an assistant coach or shifting responsibilities if he feels that's the necessary course of action.
"Do I need to look at changing the staff around?'' Holtz said. "Do I need to get more eyes back there? I didn't have the answers when I made that statement (of not staying with the status quo) and I still don't. I'll put all the options on the board and see which ones I feel comfortable with.
"This is a profession, but it's also a productivity profession. When you look at it, we all have a job to do. If somebody is not getting their job done, you've got to sit down and analyze it and see what to do going forward. But we're not at the end of the season yet. We're still swinging away with four games left. We've got to find a way to get a win.''