TAMPA — Field goals haven't been a strong suit for USF this season, but walk-on Eric Schwartz connected on a 50-yarder at the end of the first half Thursday, giving USF momentum going into the break.
Schwartz, a junior from Hudson High, hadn't connected on a kick longer than 37 yards. And the 50-yarder, which cut the Bulls' deficit to 17-10, was the fourth longest in school history.
Bill Gramatica made field goals of 61 and 51 yards in 2000, and current senior Delbert Alvarado set a Big East record with a 56-yarder against Syracuse in 2006.
Alvarado attempted a 50-yarder earlier in the first half but missed short and wide right. Even with Schwartz's make, the Bulls are 4-for-11 on field goals this season.
WELCOME BACK: Senior Jessie Hester, limited to a handful of plays this season by ankle and hamstring injuries, made his first catch of the season a special one, a 29-yard touchdown from B.J. Daniels that gave USF a 7-3 lead in the first quarter.
Hester, USF's top receiver last season, caught two more passes in the second quarter for a team-high three in the first half.
WHITEOUT: On a night in which they encouraged fans to "Go Green" in the stands, the Bulls brought out their white helmets for the first time since they debuted in December's St. Petersburg Bowl.
STRONG TURNOUT: The crowd was announced at 63,976, the third-largest to see the Bulls at Raymond James Stadium and the largest since a pair of sellouts in 2007 against West Virginia and Central Florida.
USF's student section had its strongest turnout ever with 14,851, about 1,000 more than for last year's Kansas game.
SCOUTS HONOR: There was a huge NFL presence at Thursday's game with 25 scouts and front-office personnel representing 19 teams. They included Bucs general manager Mark Dominik and former Bucs executives Jerry Angelo (Bears) and Ruston Webster (Seahawks).
USF's Jason Pierre-Paul and Cincinnati's Tony Pike are considered potential first-round picks, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper.
THIS AND THAT: USF hadn't played at home since Sept. 19 against Charleston Southern, a span of 26 days, following games at Florida State and Syracuse and a bye. … USF committed eight penalties for 65 yards in the first half, helping offset a 258-133 advantage in total offense.
Times writer Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.