Bulls 'grateful' Mitchell head injury not as serious
TAMPA -- USF football got a significant injury scare late in Saturday's win against UTEP when sophomore receiver Terrence Mitchell lay motionless on the field after a head-on collision making a tackle on a fake punt early in the fourth quarter.
Mitchell was carried off the field on a stretcher and taken to a hospital, but Bulls coach Skip Holtz said he had a head injury and not a neck injury, that he had feeling and motion in his extremities and was hospitalized as a precaution for a concussion after the frightening collision. Holtz said the Hillsborough High graduate was speaking and responsive in the hospital, a huge relief for his Bulls teammates.
"We're very grateful that the injury was not as severe as it appeared it was on the field, and that he's responding really positively right now," Holtz said. "We'll keep him in our thoughts and prayers as we go through this that he'll continue to make a fast recovery."
USF's players and some family members circled around Mitchell as he lay on his back directly in front of the Bulls' sideline, having collided with UTEP punter Ian Campbell after the Miners executed a fake punt for a 19-yard gain early in the fourth quarter. Mitchell's first cousin, receiver Lindsey Lamar, said he was very encouraged that Mitchell's injury wasn't anything neck-related, seeing the way he was taken off the field.
"It was a sad feeling to see him going away like that. It was hard for me," Lamar said. "They told me he was doing OK, so that's a good thing and I'm happy for that."
Quarterback B.J. Daniels said he expected to visit Mitchell in the hospital with other Bulls players after Saturday's game,
"We're definitely praying for him. We did on the field," Daniels said. "We really don't know what's going on with him. A lot of us are going to go to the hospital and check on him. Bull nation, we just want to keep him in our prayers."
BIG PLAYS: In the last two weeks, USF's offense has shown a big-play potential that was missing in Holtz's first season in Tampa -- the Bulls had three touchdowns of 50 yards or longer Saturday against UTEP, matching their total for all of last season.
The Bulls got a 71-yard scoring run by quarterback B.J. Daniels, a 67-yard option run by Victor Marc and a 54-yard pass to Lindsey Lamar, and this came after two long scoring plays in last week's 70-17 rout of Florida A&M. The Bulls had just three such scoring plays last season, with two of them coming in a season-opening win against Stony Brook -- the only touchdown longer than 50 yards after that was a 70-yard pass to receiver Faron Hornes in a win at Cincinnati.
BAKER IN: With senior cornerback Quenton Washington sidelined with a knee injury, junior George Baker stepped in as a starter, making just his second career start and first since the 2009 opener against Charleston Southern. Baker, from Miami Archbishop Carroll was tested often in the first half but had five tackles before halftime, second only to safety Jon Lejiste, who had seven.
Washington was held out with hopes that he can return healthy for Thursday's game against Pittsburgh, where he'll be needed against a strong passing offense.
SPECIAL PROBLEMS: USF coach Skip Holtz had talked last week about the strength of UTEP's kickoff return game, and the Miners didn't disappoint, piling up 183 yards on kickoff returns in the first half alone. Vernon Frazier, who came into the game ranked ninth in the nation, had a 67-yard kickoff return to set up the Miners' first touchdown. After a touchback on the opening kickoff, UTEP gave itself great field position, starting drives at its 36, 43 and 48-yard lines in addition to the long return by Frazier.
THIS AND THAT: Receiver Victor Marc, who scored a 67-yard touchdown on an option run, got his first career start at receiver. ... Twice, USF had big gains challenged, but upheld on review. The Bulls had a 21-yard reception on the sideline to receiver Deonte Welch to set up a 3-yard touchdown by Darrell Scott that was upheld, then a 54-yard touchdown pass to Lindsey Lamar in the third quarter. ...