TAMPA -— USF got a significant injury scare late in Saturday's win against Texas-El Paso when sophomore WR Terrence Mitchell lay motionless on the field after a head-on collision making a tackle on a fake punt early in the fourth quarter.
Mitchell was carried off the field on a stretcher and taken to a hospital, but USF coach Skip Holtz said Mitchell had a head injury and not a neck injury, that he had feeling and motion in his extremities and was hospitalized as a precaution for a concussion. Holtz said the Hillsborough High graduate was speaking and responsive in the hospital, a huge relief for his teammates.
"We're very grateful that the injury was not as severe as it appeared it was on the field, and that he's responding really positively right now," Holtz said. "We'll keep him in our thoughts and prayers as we go through this that he'll continue to make a fast recovery."
Players and some family members circled around Mitchell as he lay on his back directly in front of the Bulls sideline, having collided with UTEP P Ian Campbell after the Miners executed a fake punt for a 19-yard gain early. Mitchell's first cousin, WR Lindsey Lamar, said he was encouraged that Mitchell's injury wasn't anything neck-related, after seeing the way he was taken off the field.
"It was a sad feeling to see him going away like that. It was hard for me," Lamar said. "They told me he was doing okay, so that's a good thing and I'm happy for that."
BIG PLAYS: In the last two weeks, USF's offense has shown a big-play potential that was missing in Holtz's first season in Tampa. The Bulls had three touchdowns of 50 yards or longer Saturday against UTEP, matching their total for all of last season.
The Bulls got a 71-yard scoring run by QB B.J. Daniels, a 67-yard option run by Victor Marc and a 54-yard pass to Lamar. These came after two long scoring plays in last week's 70-17 rout of Florida A&M. The Bulls had just three such scoring plays last season, with two of them coming in a season-opening win against Stony Brook. The only touchdown longer than 50 yards after that game was a 70-yard pass to WR Faron Hornes in a win at Cincinnati.
WINNING REVIEWS: Twice, USF had big gains challenged, but upheld on review. The Bulls had a 21-yard reception on the sideline to WR Deonte Welch to set up a 3-yard touchdown by RB Darrell Scott that was upheld, then a 54-yard touchdown pass to Lamar in the third quarter.
Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346.