Notes: Griffin returns with Bulls' first TD
TAMPA -- Sterling Griffin landed on his back at the side of the south end zone, perhaps 20 feet from where he'd last been seen for USF.
After an absence of nearly six weeks, USF's leading receiver made a resounding comeback in the second quarter Thursday night, reeling in a 20-yard touchdown pass from B.J. Daniels, not far from where he fractured his ankle in late October.
Griffin was initially ruled out of bounds, but replays showed that he tapped his foot down in the end zone before landing on his back out of bounds. His catch capped a nine-play, 80-yard drive where USF's offense woke up after three straight three-and-out possessions.
When Griffin injured his ankle on a pass in the same end zone, he was said to be out 6 to 8 weeks, which left room for little return except for a bowl game. But he returned to practice last week and was cleared to play, making the most of his first catch. Despite missing four games, Griffin remained USF's team leader in receptions and receiving yards entering the game.
Griffin wasn't the only receiver making a comeback from injury -- sixth-year senior A.J. Love, who was honored with his classmates before his final home game, caught a 6-yard pass on the game's opening drive.
ROUGH START: USF's recent struggles in the first quarter mirror the team's overall struggles since the first month of the season. After the opening period ended with the score 0-0, the Bulls had scored a total of three points in the first quarters of their last four games.
That's a stark contrast to the start of the season, when the Bulls scored 13, 10, 21 and 21 points in the opening quarters of their first four wins; they've totaled 20 first-quarter points in eight games since.
IRON KIND: For the second week in a row, USF was spared when an opponent's first-quarter field goal bounced off an upright for a miss. Louisville did that off the upright in the north end zone last week, and West Virginia's came in the south end zone. A week before Louisville's miss, USF's Ryne Giddins blocked a Miami field goal in the Bulls' 6-3 loss, making it a difficult place for kickers.