TAMPA — Prepare like a starter and be ready to contribute in a game at any given time.
That is the message USF coach Willie Taggart preaches to his backups every week in practice to make sure they're ready for crucial situations when their number is called.
But even Taggart could not have prepared for what the Bulls experienced during their 26-20 win over Cincinnati on Saturday night.
In the first half, the team lost starting quarterback Steven Bench and starting running back Marcus Shaw with leg injuries.
Their early departures forced the first-year coach to turn to his bench, calling on senior quarterback Bobby Eveld and junior running back Michael Pierre to help fill the void.
"(Taggart) looked me in my eye and said 'Hey, what are you going to do?' " Pierre said. "I said, 'I'm going to do something.' "
Both did more than something. The duo helped carry USF to its first win of the season.
In relief of Bench, Eveld finished 10-of-16 passing with 122 yards. Pierre gained 61 yards on 16 carries in place of Shaw, who ranked 10th in the nation in total rushing yards (525) coming into the game.
"It was great to see, because we always talk about the next guy up," Taggart said. "We don't sit around and pout about someone going down. We say all of our guys are on scholarship and the next guy steps up and makes a play."
For Pierre, whose 21-yard run in the second quarter helped set up a 24-yard field goal by Marvin Kloss, watching Shaw leave the game injured was personal.
"When he first got hurt, I started crying," Pierre said. "That's like my brother. We're real, real cool. … I knew deep down inside I had to step up and bring us through this."
Taggart said he was especially impressed with Eveld, who lost the starting job to Bench three weeks ago during USF's 28-10 loss to Florida Atlantic.
"Bobby could have easily been one of those guys that called it quits when he wasn't playing anymore," Taggart said. "But he didn't. He came with a great attitude to practice and it paid off for him."
Eveld was just grateful Taggart counted on him to get the job done.
"They always tell you you're one snap away," he said. "It couldn't have been more true tonight."