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Freshman walk-on quarterback comes to the rescue for USF Bulls

MIAMI — This was too much to ask. This was too soon to ask it. All in all, this seemed to be too much of a burden to be placed upon the slender shoulders of a quarterback who just got here.

The kid is 18, for crying out loud. He's a walk-on. He's so fresh out of high school there is still confetti from the prom in his hair.

As for that team on the other side of the line of scrimmage? That's Miami. On its home turf, with a soggy field and the nasty tone of desperation from hearing suggestions that its coach is under fire. That's the program of Sapp and Lewis and Blades and Irvin and Reed and Testaverde and Taylor and Vilma and all the rest who piled up five national titles. As programs go, this is one that was built to induce nightmares among freshman quarterbacks.

And none of it, not a bit, seemed to bother Bobby "The Equalizer" Eveld, the new favorite calf of the USF Bulls.

Well, hello, Bobby.

Nice way to introduce yourself, by the way.

Eveld came off the bench Saturday and staked his claim to the future in USF's 23-20 upset of the Hurricanes. He was calm, he was poised, and he was smart beyond anything that could be expected of him. Twice, he led his team from behind, and by the end of the day, he had made the Bulls' biggest win of the year possible.

This is how a freshman makes his fans learn his name. Not in one of those early season warmup games against a designed victim in front of a friendly crowd. Not with glowing stats against a middle-of-the-road opponent. But here, in a road game against a program that remains one of college football's brand names, in a game that seemed to restore the outlandish ambition that has always defined the USF program. Also, overtime doesn't hurt.

"He doesn't even have a scholarship, and he's leading the charge," said USF coach Skip Holtz.

"What he did today doesn't shock me; not even in that environment and that pressure."

The rest of us? Yeah, we're a little bit shocked.

After all, what hints were there Eveld had this kind of performance in him? He had thrown only 19 balls all year, and 12 of those came in the opener against Stony Brook almost three months ago. Since then, Eveld had hit only 3 of 7 passes in mop-up duty.

Oh, that didn't stop USF fans from chanting his name throughout the struggles of starting quarterback B.J. Daniels. Eveld was, after all, the backup quarterback. Still, coaches would rather gargle with razor blades than play a true freshman, and so Eveld waited.

Just before halftime against Miami, Daniels felt something pop in his leg. On his next play, Daniels threw a popup that should have been intercepted. And it was clear that Daniels was struggling to move on his injured left leg.

At halftime, Daniels told Holtz that his leg was hurting.

"He wouldn't tell me he couldn't go," Holtz said. "He kept saying, 'Coach, I'm hurting. I can't run. But if you need me to go, I'll go.' "

Holtz's response?

"I can't put you out there on one leg."

Then Holtz turned to Eveld and said: "Let's go. You're up. It's your turn."

Mind you, Miami doesn't quite have the teeth it used to have, which explains the airplane that circled the stadium with a banner demanding the job of coach Randy Shannon (AP reported he was fired Saturday night). But the Hurricanes still play some defense. They entered with the third-best pass efficiency in the nation, and they were second in the nation in tackles for loss, and defensive end Allen Bailey will be drafted in the top dozen or so in next year's draft.

Perhaps that is why the Bulls were so cautious with Eveld early. But after UM took a 17-10 lead, the Bulls had no choice but to unleash Eveld.

Turns out, there is something to Eveld, the tall, skinny kid from Jesuit who admits his biggest victory before Saturday was against Tampa Catholic. He has enough poise, and he has enough arm. Why he didn't get scholarship offers remains a mystery.

As Eveld explains it, a lot of programs had him second or third on their lists. In the end, he was left only with Division II or Division III offers. He preferred to walk on at USF. And, yeah, you'd have to figure that scholarship thing will work itself out quickly.

"If you're going to have a dog that bites, it starts as a pup," Holtz said. "Today, Bobby Eveld showed he had some teeth."

For Eveld, it was the last two series that made his day. On the first, the Bulls trailed 17-10, and he drove them 81 yards to tie. On the second, the Bulls trailed 20-17, and he took them to the end zone for the win. On those two drives, Eveld was efficient even on plays that Holtz regretted calling, such as first and goal from the 10 in overtime.

"I called the double slant, and it was like, 'What are you thinking?' " Holtz said. "You need a field goal, you've got a freshman quarterback, and you're going to throw the ball over the middle? I said on the headsets, 'This is a stupid call.' Until Joel Miller caught it on the 1, and then it was the best call we've ever made all day."

On his last two drives, Eveld was 4-of-6 for 72 yards and the Bulls scored 10 points. That'll get fans talking about Eveld's future and whether it begins next week against UConn.

By then, of course, he will be much older.

Freshman walk-on quarterback comes to the rescue for USF Bulls 11/27/10 [Last modified: Saturday, November 27, 2010 11:13pm]

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