Bulls pull away, tame Terriers 40-7 in opener
TAMPA – For nearly a half, it was downright ugly for USF football.
But Wofford’s snaps started sailing high, and the Bulls figured out the Terriers’ tricky triple-option offense in time to pull away and win 40-7, the kind of score you expect against a I-AA opponent in a season opener.
“The one positive about this is we won,” defensive coordinator Joe Tresey said. “The second is we’re not going to face a team like this again this year. Everybody from here out will be a little more conventional.”
Tied 7-7 late in the first half, USF’s defense pitched a shutout the rest of the way, after the Terriers gave the Bulls nine points in the final 36 seconds before halftime, shifting momentum to the home team before an announced crowd of 40,360 at Raymond James Stadium.
Senior quarterback Matt Grothe overcame an early interception and completed 19 of 23 passes, including a touchdown to Theo Wilson. Senior running back Mo Plancher had a solid start, scoring twice and racking up 78 yards, and freshman Lindsey Lamar tacked on a 13-yard touchdown.
USF coach Jim Leavitt admitted he didn’t focus his defensive preparations entirely on stopping an option offense in the past two weeks, instead focusing on the kinds of offenses the Bulls (1-0) will face most of this season.
“It was a real tough decision,” Leavitt said. “At halftime, I felt like I didn’t make the right one.”
Wofford (0-1) marched down the field and scored on its opening drive, and the Bulls were mired in a 7-7 tie with 90 seconds left in the first half when the Terriers hurt themselves with special-teams mistakes. Wofford came in with a gambling reputation – they converted more fourth downs than any team in Division I last year – but that boldness ended up backfiring.
The Terriers converted a fourth-and-1 from their 31-yard line in the second quarter, and when they faced a fourth-and-1 from their 29 with 1:14 to play, they twice lined up to go for it, calling time out both times after not getting USF to jump offsides. The Terriers lined up to go for it a third time and quick-kicked, but a false start backed them up.
When they finally punted, the ball sailed over punter Chris Tommie’s head, and he was tackled by USF’s Tyson Butler at the Terriers’ 8-yard line. Four plays, later, Grothe found Wilson for a 6-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
If that wasn’t enough damage, Wofford had to punt again with eight seconds left, and again, the snap sailed high, and Tommie kicked the loose ball through the end zone for a safety and a 16-7 halftime lead for the Bulls.
USF took control in the second half, forcing a three-and-out and fumble on Wofford’s first two drives, while the offense scored on four of five second-half possessions.
"It's not an offense you see every day," defensive end George Selvie said. "At first, they came down and scored on us, and we said 'We have to tighten up."
Leavitt had said redshirt freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels would play, and Daniels came in for a series in the third quarter, setting up a 30-yard Delbert Alvarado field goal. In the fourth quarter, Daniels got his first career touchdown pass, connecting with walk-on Jeffrey “Pookie” Wilson for a 22-yard score.
The Bulls’ schedule gets only slightly tougher, as USF is on the road next week at Western Kentucky, which just moved to Division I-A and lost 63-7 to Tennesee on Saturday.