USF women's hoops coach blasts feeble football attendance
Even as his team flourishes in front of modest home audiences, USF coach Willie Taggart has remained mostly diplomatic, soliciting fan support even as he expresses gratitude for those fans who show up.
One of his colleagues has opted for a more candid approach: Highly-successful Bulls women's basketball coach Jose Fernandez is tired of the feeble fan turnout.
Saturday evening, after the Bulls rallied for a 42-27 win against Connecticut before an announced Raymond James Stadium crowd of 30,297, Fernandez vented.
"As a coach that is always fighting for support and attendance, those kids and our football program deserve more," Fernandez told the Tampa Bay Times.
USF already has earned bowl eligibility, and its seven consecutive conference victories are a program record. Yet an announced crowd of only 16,585 turned out for last weekend's 38-22 homecoming win against East Carolina.
Saturday's attendance seemed only slightly better despite ongoing promotion regionally, and a concerted effort by school officials this week to drum up student turnout, highlighted by free parking offered to the first 300 student-driven vehicles that arrived at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday.
"They are doing their part," Fernandez said of the football team. "This community expects us to be big-time, then people need to step up and support these student-athletes."
STILL STREAKING: At times, a number of Bulls offensive streaks seemed in peril Saturday.
But they're still in play today, courtesy of their furious finish in their victory against UConn.
USF now has scored at least 35 points -- and gained at least 440 yards (it finished with 529) -- for 11 consecutive games. Both streaks currently are the longest in Division I. So too is the Bulls' streak of 12 games in a row with at least 200 rushing yards (they had 316).
Meantime, another streak has been spawned. For the first time in program history, USF had a pair of 100-yard rushers in consecutive games. QB Quinton Flowers and TB Marlon Mack ran for 157 and 107, respectively. Both also eclipsed 100 yards against East Carolina.
MITCHELL THE 'MAN': On another night of sparkling scoring plays, arguably the most astounding came in the fourth quarter, when redshirt freshman TE Mitchell Wilcox out-fought senior FS Obi Melifonwu for a 29-yard touchdown near the left pylon.
"That was a grown-man catch," Taggart said.
Wilcox (two catches, 38 yards), who started while sophomore Kano Dillon continues recovering from an ankle injury, said the play was a simple go route, partially sparked when Melifonwu made a bad adjustment to the throw.
"Quinton gave me a chance," Wilcox said. "It was what Coach T calls a big-boy ball. I came down with it, six points on the board."
ODDS AND ENDS: After totaling eight catches in the Bulls' first two games, senior WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling has only five in his last four, including Saturday's 26-yard touchdown catch. ... For the first time in five games, a Bulls opponent did not run for a season-high total; Connecticut had only 72 rushing yards. ... MLB Auggie Sanchez's 11-tackle effort was his third double-digit tackle performance of the season. ... With 1,719 rushing yards, Flowers now is eighth on USF's career list. ... WR Rodney Adams' next catch will be his 100th at USF.