TAMPA — Two big first-half kickoff returns helped Dontavia Bogan set school records for kickoff returns and jump-started USF's offense.
Bogan took the opening kickoff 64 yards, setting up a short field for a touchdown, and he returned another kick late in the first half 71 yards.
"The kickoff return was great," coach Jim Leavitt said. "I thought special teams played well and did some great things."
The opening return set USF's season record as his 24th of the season, and it gave him the season record for kickoff return yards; he has 652 on the year. Former Dixie Hollins High standout DeAndrew Rubin held the mark of 578, and he shared the returns record of 23 with current Bulls CB Jerome Murphy, who set his mark last season.
Bogan's returns were easily USF's longest this season, trumping a 40-yard effort from WR Taurus Johnson. The sophomore from Thomasville, Ga., had five plays of 25 yards or more in last week's loss to Rutgers.
His kickoff returns were the longest for USF since Mike Jenkins went 100 yards in last year's loss to Cincinnati.
Bogan's first return led to a touchdown, but the second wasn't as rewarding. It set USF on the Connecticut 20-yard line with 18 seconds left in the half. With a chance at a field goal or more, the Bulls came away empty as Matt Grothe's second-down pass was intercepted by S Aaron Bagsby.
SENIOR SEND-OFF: USF's senior class came into its final home game needing one win to match the winningest four-year run in Bulls history. The senior classes in 2002 and 2003 finished with 31 each, and this year's seniors went into the game with 30.
No player has been a part of that more than S Carlton Williams, who started his 45th game, matching LB Stephen Nicholas and CB Trae Williams for the most in school history. He should have that record to himself with a start against West Virginia on Dec. 6.
The starting lineup included 11 seniors: OLs Jake Griffin, Matt Huners, Ryan Schmidt and Marc Dile; TE Cedric Hill; WR Marcus Edwards; RB Ben Williams; DE Jarriett Buie; LBs Tyrone McKenzie, Carlton Williams; and CB Tyller Roberts.
BEEN A WHILE: When USF got a 2-yard touchdown on its opening drive for a 7-0 lead, it marked its first lead in 29 days, going back three games to the fourth quarter of its loss at Louisville.
BACK RUNNING: USF's rushing game got a boost with the healthy return of sophomores Mike Ford and Jamar Taylor, limited by ankle injuries to one carry in the past two games. Ford had five carries in the first half for 13 yards, and Taylor went for 6 yards on his first carry. Starter Ben Williams got the 2-yard touchdown run on USF's opening drive.
THIS AND THAT: DT Terrell McClain had a sack for the third game in a row. … McKenzie was busy in the first half, credited with 10 tackles. MLB Kion Wilson had six. … Maikon Bonani kicked a 29-yard field goal, his 13th in 19 attempts.
Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf.