TAMPA — As a redshirt freshman last year, Evan Landi caught five passes for 39 yards as he transitioned from backup quarterback to receiver.
On Saturday, with that transformation complete, Landi looked at home catching passes, with four receptions in the first quarter alone. Then he had a 47-yard grab across the middle in the third quarter to set up a Bulls touchdown. Landi finished with six catches for 104 yards.
"I was excited to go out there, help the team and put us in position to score points," Landi said of his first career start. "I felt we were all in rhythm, and that all comes from the week prior in practice. It was good for us to go out and execute the way we did."
Receiver has been a position of concern for the Bulls, who lost Carlton Mitchell to the NFL draft and saw starters A.J. Love and Sterling Griffin sidelined with injuries for the first month of the season. That leaves senior Dontavia Bogan, who had a 59-yard touchdown catch on USF's first offensive play, and Landi, whose 6-foot-3, 221-pound frame gives him a size advantage on most defensive backs.
"I thought Evan Landi did a really nice job," coach Skip Holtz said. "Evan has proven to me he's a player in there."
Landi wasn't the only emerging star on offense. Another sophomore, Demetris Murray, looked the best of USF's running backs, scoring on a nimble 25-yard pass from walk-on Bobby Eveld in the third. Murray was USF's top gainer in the first half, rushing seven times for 34 yards and catching two passes for 32 yards. Like Landi, Murray totaled 77 yards as a freshman; he finished with 103 total yards Saturday.
HERE'S THE KICKER: After a tight battle throughout spring and preseason camp, senior walk-on Eric Schwartz earned the kicking job over sophomore Maikon Bonani. Schultz hit a 37-yard field goal in the second quarter to regain the lead for the Bulls and connected on his first seven extra points without any problems. Bonani handled kickoffs, with one going out of bounds to set the Seawolves up on their 40.
DEBUTS: Five true freshmen made their USF debuts, with Eveld, S Mark Joyce, WR Stephen Bravo-Brown, CB Terrence Mitchell (Hillsborough High) and RB Marcus Shaw shedding their redshirts. Bravo-Brown had two catches for 23 yards on the final drive of the first half, Joyce had two tackles in the first half, and Mitchell was USF's third punt returner when he lined up in the third quarter. Shaw fumbled on his first carry, but the loose ball was recovered by TE Jeff Hawkins; Shaw later had a 63-yard touchdown run for the final score.
THIS AND THAT: Former Bulls Matt Grothe and Jason Pierre-Paul attended. … Northeast's Armando Sanchez was this week's special-teams captain, joining seniors Sampson Genus, Jacquian Williams and Mistral Raymond. … Several walk-ons saw their first playing time — Indian Rock Christian grad Jonny Sitton had a 30-yard punt return before muffing the next punt, and former Plant LB Chris Breit had three late tackles.