PITTSBURGH — Where have USF's running backs gone?
For the fourth game in a row, the Bulls failed to get a combined 100 yards from their running backs, mustering just 57 on 13 carries in Saturday's 41-14 loss to Pittsburgh despite facing a defense that was dropped back to stop the pass.
The Bulls rotated running backs as they normally do, with starter Mo Plancher and junior Jamar Taylor, who made his season debut after missing six games with a sprained knee, each getting just five carries. No Bulls running back had a carry of more than 8 yards, and only two runs resulted in first downs.
Junior Mike Ford, who rushed for 68 yards and two touchdowns at Syracuse in USF's last win, was seemingly relegated to a short-yardage role. His only two carries came on a 3-yard touchdown run and a 1-yard conversion on third and 1, which also drew a 15-yard facemask penalty.
USF coach Jim Leavitt said he didn't think the rotation was a factor in USF not getting into a rhythm offensively.
"I don't think that's it, not really at all," Leavitt said. "You can point at a lot of things when you lose like this. It'll be all kinds of things, 'Oh, they would have done this, this, this.' "
The running backs will get a boost with the return of Taylor, who was potentially facing a redshirt because of his injury but was the second back in the game against Pittsburgh, showing promise on his 28 yards.
"He's an explosive back," offensive coordinator Mike Canales said. "He's strong, he's quick, he's elusive. He's what you want."
WHERE's THE RUSH?: Pittsburgh's offensive line held USF's vaunted front four without a sack, with the Bulls' only one coming from LB Kion Wilson. Senior E George Selvie had just one tackle, and junior Craig Marshall, who started at the other end, had only one assisted tackle.
"Our offensive line was just unbelievable," Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "To protect Bill Stull like they did throughout the game might have been the difference."
LANDI AT QB: Redshirt freshman Evan Landi had played some at receiver, but Saturday marked his debut at quarterback, as he took over for B.J. Daniels with the game out of reach in the fourth quarter.
Landi was sacked twice, losing 19 yards, but also ran for 34 yards on three other carries. When USF got the ball at the Pitt 36 with 48 seconds left, Landi found walk-on WR Jeffrey Wilson for 16 yards, then found junior Dontavia Bogan for a 20-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left.
THIS AND THAT: Leavitt hinted at personnel changes on defense, with unnamed veteran players potentially losing starting jobs. … Freshman CB Kayvon Webster lined up deep on kickoffs, returning the first two for 21 yards. … Tyson Butler's interception of Stull was just the fourth pick thrown by the Pittsburgh quarterback in 196 attempts.