Ten postgame thoughts from USF's 40-7 win
Just watched Saturday's game against Wofford again on ESPN360.com, so here are some observations on the Bulls' 40-7 win ...
-- Matt Grothe had a bad interception from the 2-yard line, but offensive coordinator Mike Canales said the play was his fault, trying to call a play that wasn't there. He said Grothe never saw safety Tommy Irvin as he tried to thread a pass to receiver Dontavia Bogan -- that pick and a fumble by Aston Samuels on his only carry were really the only bad spots for USF's offense, which had only 57 plays but scored on six of 10 possessions.
Why didn't the Bulls just punch it in from the 2? USF coach Jim Leavitt said he wanted to use the situation to try the unexpected play, wanting the Bulls to not seem predictable. You can argue the goal is to score, not to surprise, but that's how Leavitt explained the third-down play-call.
Grothe's go-ahead touchdown to Theo Wilson was a pinpoint pass -- right over the outstretched arms of two Wofford defenders for Wilson's first career reception. Also getting their first catches Saturday were Evan Landi -- who was in on the fourth play of the game -- and walk-on Jeffrey "Pookie" Wilson.
USF put up 40 points with a vanilla offense that was missing two key running backs, had two key receivers recovering from injury and had two of the top tight ends held out with injuries.
-- Wow, did Wofford botch the final 90 seconds of the first half. Trying twice to draw the Bulls offsides on fourth and short, then false-starting on a quick-kick, then a high snap that set USF up on the Wofford 8-yard line. Then, getting the ball on their 23-yard line with 29 seconds left, Wofford doesn't run out the clock, going out of bounds twice with an incompletion to force themselves to punt.
Yes, punter Chris Tommie probably could have fallen on the ball to run out the clock, but the safe play on a snap over your head is to concede a safety to avoid another touchdown. Instead of tied at halftime and getting the second-half kickoff, Wofford killed their momentum and took itself out of the game.-- Thought USF put the game away in the first four minutes of the second half. Two sacks by Chris Robinson and George Selvie pinned Wofford deep, and then the Bulls went to power running -- four straight carries by Mo Plancher for 39 yards and a touchdown to make it 23-7. USF got some great blocks from fullback Richard Kelly, who lined up as an H-back on that drive.
-- Strong game for Delbert Alvarado, who handled seven kickoffs, five extra points, two punts and a 30-yard field goal. The punts included a 50-yarder from the USF 8-yard line, and Wofford had zero return yards on his two punts -- a net punting average of 42 yards is a good night. And on a night when two Wofford punts sailed over the punter's head, USF snapper Mike Walsh also had a comparably solid debut.
-- It's worth noting that freshman defensive end Ryne Giddins dressed but did not play, leaving open the possibility of him redshirting this season. USF used eight defensive linemen on the opening series, but didn't play anyone else beyond those eight the rest of the game. If USF can play at a high level while redshirting Giddins and Julius Forte, it's a positive for future Bulls teams ... Kayvon Webster, Sterling Griffin, Lindsey Lamar, Sam Barrington and Victor Marc played as true freshmen Saturday.
-- I didn't see nearly the same rotation at linebacker, where Kion Wilson was in on every play in the first three quarters and Sabbath Joseph and Chris Robinson split time at the other linebacker spot -- USF was exclusively in its nickel package. I didn't see Sam Barrington or Jacquian WIlliams on defense until the fourth quarter, though Barrington had three tackles and nearly got an interception. Williams, interestingly, looked to see his only defensive snaps as a defensive end. Redshirt freshmen Mike Lanaris and Armando Sanchez also played linebacker on the final possession.
-- I think it's clear junior receiver Carlton Mitchell will play a big role this season -- he had five catches in the first two drives Saturday, with three for first downs and two of those on third down. Mitchell had a slow start last season -- seven total catches in the first four games. He didn't have more than four catches in a game in '08 but had six Saturday, and looks to be Grothe's new choice for dumpoff passes on quick screens, as Marcus Edwards was last season. Mitchell now has 979 career receiving yards, just behind Jessie Hester (1,034) among current receivers -- both are well within range of Hugh Smith's USF career record of 1,523 this season.
-- Two good examples of USF's aggressiveness in forcing turnovers came in the second half -- safety Nate Allen rips the ball loose for a fumble during a gang tackle at midfield, and corner Jerome Murphy chases down Eric Breitenstein on a 44-yard run and forces a fumble, with Tyson Butler was credited with a clutch play to recover the loose ball before he rolled out of bounds. Replays clearly showed he didn't have control of the ball, and Wofford reviewed the play, but the call was somehow upheld.
-- Walk-on shoutouts: Cornerback Christopher Lane, cut from USF's roster after each of the last two springs, not only got on the field for the final five minutes, but got a tackle as well. ... Running back Joel Miller continues to be a special-teams ace, getting two tackles and having a third negated by penalty.
-- We'll be writing more on Lamar this week, but you could see USF likes using him on flare passes out of the backfield -- he had four catches for 24 yards, including a fourth-down conversion on the play before his touchdown. None of USF's returning running backs had more than four catches in all of last season, so to see him getting four receptions in his debut suggests we'll see much more of that this fall.