Sunday, February 25, 2018
Colleges

USF beats Western Carolina in opener

TAMPA — Led by their coach, USF's players emerged from their tunnel after a 69-minute weather delay Saturday and made a beeline for the north end zone, where they slapped fives and ingested the adulation of those shoehorned into the Bulls' student section.

More than an hour — an excruciating one — would elapse before the Bulls returned to that end zone. A freshman led them there.

With boos rapidly filling the same air through which thunder had previously rumbled, rookie tailback Marlon Mack helped transform them into roars, and helped the Bulls sidestep a second consecutive season-opening embarrassment.

Mack's four rushing touchdowns — three of them 56 yards or more — lifted USF (1-0) to a 36-31 victory against Division I-AA doormat Western Carolina before an announced audience of 31,651.

A game-day replacement in the starting lineup for sophomore Darius Tice (knee), Mack finished with 24 carries for 275 yards, equaling Andre Hall's 10-year-old school single-game mark and setting a new American Athletic Conference mark.

"That was a show," said coach Willie Taggart said. "I told our football team before the game that some people show up under the spotlight and some people run away. The spotlight came and he showed up and showed out."

The rest of the offense? Well, for all the shine on the golden helmets the Bulls unveiled, the passing game behind sophomore quarterback Mike White remains smudged. Despite scoring the most points of the Taggart era, the Bulls still must find their timing and, possibly, a temporary replacement for senior wideout Andre Davis (sternum) and left guard Thor Jozwiak (shoulder).

"We were just off. We just weren't executing at all," Taggart said.

Meantime, USF's new 3-4 alignment, installed to put more athletes on the field and neutralize spread formations, often seemed perplexed by the Catamounts, who opened a 14-3 early lead and finished with nearly 400 yards.

After a fumble (forced by Hillsborough High alumnus Nigel Harris) and interception (by Pasco High's Jamie Byrd) on their first two possessions, the Catamounts put together TD drives of 58 and 88 yards.

By halftime, 6-foot junior quarterback Troy Mitchell had completed 22 of 30 passes for 198 yards, connecting with six receivers. He resuscitated his team with a 17-play scoring drive capped by his TD strike to Spearman Robinson on fourth-and-6 with 6:06 to play, cutting WCU's deficit to 30-24.

"He did a great job scrambling," said Byrd, a junior college transfer who had a team-best 11 tackles in his USF debut. "We were kind of playing them a little soft and they kept checking bubble screen after bubble screen."

While Mitchell sparkled, his counterpart mostly stumbled.

Struggling to set his feet or find his rhythm, White (9-for-26, 181 yards, one INT) completed five of his first 19 passes. He didn't toss a pass for positive yardage to a receiver until his 32-yarder to tight end Sean Price in the left flat six minutes into the second half.

That drive, like two others in the opening half, ended with Marvin Kloss field goals. Twice in the half, USF moved inside WCU's 15 only to settle for Kloss conversions, the last of which cut USF's deficit to 17-16 at the half.

"Some of the throws (White) was making, I'd never seen him throw the ball like that before," Taggart said. "I just told Mike to settle down. And then when Thor got hurt we had some guys moving around up front and that caused a lot of problems. ... All at one time, things just weren't going our way."

But unlike last fall, the Bulls had backfield burst to salvage them.

On his fifth carry of the second half, Mack made a juke at the line, slithered through a seam and dashed for a 60-yard TD for a lead the Bulls wouldn't relinquish.

Two drives later, on the Bulls' most promising possession of the night, he sandwiched a 17-yard run between White's completions of 33 and 35 yards to Rodney Adams and Deonte Welch, respectively. Mack then finished the drive with a 3-yard TD run, giving USF a 30-17 lead.

His final encore came three plays after Smith's fourth-down TD strike to Robinson, when he sprinted down the Bulls' sideline for a 56-yard TD.

And for one night, the Bulls had outrun every demon, including adversity.

"I didn't see anybody put their head down on the sideline when it was tough, I didn't hear anybody arguing with someone else," Taggart said.

"I heard a lot of guys encouraging each other, and it paid off for us."

 
Comments
Louisville must vacate 2013 basketball title, NCAA denies appeal

Louisville must vacate 2013 basketball title, NCAA denies appeal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville must vacate its 2013 men’s basketball title following an NCAA appeals panel’s decision to uphold sanctions against the men’s program in the sex scandal case. The Cardinals will have to vacate 123 victories including the c...
Published: 02/20/18
Center Molly Franson’s value to UT is easily quantifiable

Center Molly Franson’s value to UT is easily quantifiable

TAMPA — Coaches often point to "intangibles" — the subtle positive qualities that usually don’t show up in the boxscore — when praising their key players.But University of Tampa women’s basketball coach Tom Jessee has a different definition when desc...
Published: 02/13/18
FSU holds off rally in hard-fought win over Louisville

FSU holds off rally in hard-fought win over Louisville

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Terance Mann couldn’t mope over two missed free throws that could have sealed Florida State’s victory. There was still work to do on the other end to make sure Louisville didn’t take advantage. The junior guard quickly redeemed hims...
Updated one month ago
No. 23 Florida clobbered at home by Alabama

No. 23 Florida clobbered at home by Alabama

GAINESVILLE — Mike White hung his head.Florida’s coach scuffed his shoes against the hardwood, screamed into his hands and watched as his team let Saturday’s game slip away.With Alabama on a seven-point run 11 minutes into the second half, the Gators...
Updated one month ago

USF Bulls fall to Memphis

TAMPA — From its two-point home loss against UCF to its victory at Tulane, USF recently had provided its fan base encouragement in spurts. Similarly, its interior defense against Memphis on Wednesday night also came and went.With 6-foot-3 Tigers guar...
Updated one month ago
Florida’s shooting goes cold in road loss to Georgia

Florida’s shooting goes cold in road loss to Georgia

ATHENS, Ga. — The repeated misses were bad for No. 23 Florida. The failure to rebound them made the offensive struggles even more painful. Yante Maten scored 20 and Georgia recovered after blowing a halftime lead to beat the Gators 72-60 on Tuesday n...
Updated one month ago

Florida State beats Miami in OT despite 17 Hurricanes 3-pointers

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton and Miami’s Jim Larranaga both have at least 33 years of college basketball coaching experience under their belts.Both might have experienced a first during their matchup Saturday.FSU and Miami needed a ...
Updated one month ago
Chris Chiozza scores 20 as No. 20 Florida routs Baylor

Chris Chiozza scores 20 as No. 20 Florida routs Baylor

GAINESVILLE — Florida point guard Chris Chiozza was feeling it, so he went with the flow.A pass-first point guard by nature, Chiozza decided to stay aggressive as a scorer and see what happened.The Gators were glad he did.Chiozza finished the 20th-ra...
Updated one month ago
Pro Bowl to honor UCF for undefeated season

Pro Bowl to honor UCF for undefeated season

ORLANDO — The NFL plans to recognize UCF’s 13-0 season during today’s Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium.Players have been invited to walk out on the field for a celebration after the first quarter."When we thought about UCF and the amazing season the...
Updated one month ago