TAMPA — While saying nothing to purposely fan the flames of the USF-UCF rivalry during his weekly news conference Tuesday, Bulls coach Charlie Strong provided fuel for the Knights' best player.
He used the H-word when discussing Knights senior outside linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who plays without a left hand.
"He's gonna cause a lot of problems for us, which he's caused a lot of problems for everyone," Strong said. "And he has a handicap, and he does not allow that to stop him from doing what he needs to do, which is really special about him."
Though Strong clearly was praising Griffin's ability, the use of "handicap" struck a nerve with the Lakewood High alumnus. Moments after that sound bite hit the social media stratosphere, Griffin tweeted: "It's not a handicap."
The tweet included a red angry emoji, and two more emojis with steam coming out of the nostrils.
A prenatal condition resulted in Griffin's left hand not being fully developed at birth. As a toddler, his fingers often throbbed in pain, and his parents had them surgically removed at age 4.
Yet he flourished in track and football at Lakewood High, and was named the 2016 American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year. This season, he leads 13th-ranked UCF in sacks (3) and tackles for losses (71/2), and is third in tackles (47).
UCF coach Scott Frost indicated Monday that he's not crazy about the Week 13 layout of the conference schedule, which seems to lend an advantage to the Bulls.
USF is coming off a Thursday night home contest against Tulsa, which in theory gave the Bulls an extra day to prepare for UCF. By contrast, the Knights are operating on a short week, having played a road game Saturday at Temple.
"If this game was on Saturday, I would have no problem with somebody having a couple extra days because I know Thursday games are gonna happen in this league," Frost said.
"But I don't think it's fair to have a team have extra days and the other team have a short week. That really puts us at a disadvantage, but our kids have responded well to disadvantages before."
Odds and ends
Friday's game will be the 250th in USF history. … Adam Amin (play-by-play), Dusty Dvoracek (analysis) and Molly McGrath (sidelines) will call Friday's game for ABC. … USF is 11-22 all time against ranked teams. … Strong reiterated Tuesday that nickel-back Deatrick Nichols, who appeared to suffer a stinger or back injury against Tulsa, is fine. Strong added that defensive back Nate Ferguson and running back Trevon Sands, neither of whom suited up for the Tulsa game, both practiced Tuesday.
Contact Joey Knight at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.