TAMPA — Almost a year removed from the head injury that ended his 2011 season, USF wide receiver Terrence Mitchell wasted no time reestablishing himself as one of quarterback B.J. Daniels' primary targets.
With nine minutes to go in the second quarter, Daniels felt pressure and launched a 38-yard pass off his back foot that landed safely in the arms of the streaking Mitchell for a touchdown and a 21-3 lead in the second quarter of Saturday's 34-13 victory over Chattanooga.
"It happened so quick," Mitchell said. "I just remember finding the ball in the air and then telling myself, 'I've got to go get it.' "
Daniels, who had an up-and-down game passing, said it was great to have Mitchell back on the field.
"I trust Terrence's speed," Daniels said. "He's one of those guys who can shift into three or four different gears."
Mitchell finished with five catches for 78 yards and a touchdown.
The junior, a Hillsborough High graduate, not only led his team in receptions and receiving yards but also had a productive night on special teams, setting up two scoring drives in Moc territory. Mitchell returned a first-quarter punt 22 yards to the Chattanooga 23-yard line and brought another back 39 yards in the fourth quarter.
Coach Skip Holtz had emphasized last week the importance of winning the field position battle. He said having Mitchell back played a large role in the offense's success.
"It makes a huge difference," Holtz said. "He had a couple good punt returns tonight. … They even started just punting the ball away from him. But then as a wide receiver to be able to get the ball in his hands, I think he's got a chance to be an impact player."
Offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said he hopes Mitchell's skill set at receiver will make him a problem for defenses down the road.
"The role he's playing when there's a big field with his speed that's something that's going to be a (mismatch) for pretty much anyone because he can really go," he said.
For Mitchell, whose last play of the 2011 season ended with him being carried off on a stretcher, Saturday's home opener could not have come sooner.
"It felt great to be back out there," he said. "It was a long wait for the next season. I feel that everything that happened today was great. I loved the outcome."
He also said that with the added depth at wide receiver he relishes every opportunity to get onto the field.
"I'm just doing my job," he said. "When they call my number, I've got to make a play."