Notes: Whitehurst's punt block a highlight for Bulls
TAMPA -- The loudest that a sellout crowd got in support of USF on Saturday night, and the closest the Bulls came to catching Florida State, came early in the second half, when the Bulls' defense forced a three-and-out and true freshman LB Tashon Whitehurst came flying in to block a Florida State punt.
"I was really just trying to go out for my seniors, to fight as hard as I can," said Whitehurst, who went to high school in Gainesville. "When I made the block, I was just so excited. I tried to pick it up. I love my seniors. The boys have great heart."
Whitehurst recovered the loose ball, and USF's offense started on the FSU 8-yard line. QB B.J. Daniels ran in for a touchdown to cut the FSU lead to 13-3, and Whitehurst's play ignited the sellout crowd, though the Bulls weren't able to capitalize on that momentum.
"That blocked punt was a great individual effort by Tashon Whitehurst," coach Skip Holtz said. "It certainly gave our football team some energy on that sideline."
FSU hadn't had a punt blocked by an opponent in nearly three years, going back to a 2009 game against N.C. State.
BIG SHOWING: USF announced the attendance at 69,383, more than 2,000 more than any of the Bulls' four previous sellouts, with fans buying up 500 standing-room-only tickets on Friday just to watch from the south end-zone plaza.
"It was fun. A lot of people yelling," Bulls running back Demetris Murray said. "You really couldn't tell who they were yelling for, but I enjoyed it."
The game's actual attendance, according to Tampa Sports Authority, was 58,808.
HUMBLE HOMECOMING: Three autumns after leading Plant High to a Class 5A state title, FSU TB James Wilder Jr. led the 'Noles from the visitors' tunnel Saturday.
He wasn't especially conspicuous after that. Wilder (five carries, 8 yards) had a shot at a second-quarter TD in his return home, but was stuffed for a 2-yard loss on second-and-goal from the USF 1. The 'Noles settled for a field goal.
"It was very disappointing," said Wilder, who finished with 11 total yards. "It happens to everybody, even the best of the best, they don't get it in all the time."
Collectively, FSU's bay area-based contingent was barely visible. WR Christian Green (Tampa Catholic) was shut out statistically, while junior DT Demonte McAllister (Alonso) had one tackle.
CALL HIM RE-PETE: FSU sophomore WR Rashad Greene, who scored on a 10-yard end-around in the first quarter, now has via punt return (twice), reception and run this season. No Seminole has done that since Peter Warrick (eight receiving, three rushing TDs, one punt return) in 1999.
ODDS AND ENDS: USF sophomore LB Reshard Cliett got his first career start, but left the game early with a lower-leg injury. ... USF's defense totaled 10 tackles for loss, more than the Bulls had in their previous two losses combined. ... The Bulls have gone five games without an interception. ... FSU now is 5-0 against in-state schools under Jimbo Fisher. ... FSU senior WR Rodney Smith (three catches, 19 yards) extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one catch to 30.
-- GREG AUMAN and JOEY KNIGHT, Times staff writers