TAMPA — A major spark in USF's 31 straight points against Kansas on Friday night that turned a 20-3 deficit into a 34-20 lead was the running of sophomore Jamar Taylor, who rushed for 69 yards and a touchdown in the third quarter.
"It was big for me, and I felt like it was big for the team," Taylor said. "The offensive line was giving me big holes all night, so I was just thankful for that. My team, everybody was just trying to rally in the second half and I was feeding off them."
Taylor had a special motivation, having lost his grandfather, Albert Blount, last week.
"He was watching over me, and I got to do some great things," said Taylor, who said his family visited his grandfather in Miami often in summers. "He was a good person, a good man, and I miss him."
USF has had different running back stars every week. Last year's top backs, Mike Ford and Ben Williams, have had ankle injuries the past two weeks. Junior Mo Plancher and sophomore Richard Kelly combined for 89 yards against Central Florida, and Taylor had a career-high effort against Kansas.
"We have five great backs, and any day, any one of us can break away and do our thing," said Taylor, who attended his grandfather's funeral services Saturday. "It's unbelievable how much talent we have."
HOMECOMING: Saturday's game at Florida International is a proud homecoming for several Bulls from the Miami area. USF lost at Miami in 2005, but some of this year's seniors have fond memories of that game.
"I actually got to tackle Devin Hester," said senior linebacker Brouce Mompremier, who played at Miami's Edison High. "I was on punt team. Our punter was Brandon Baker, and (coach Jim) Leavitt kept saying 'Don't punt it to him.' He punts it to Devin, and I'm like, 'Oh, my God.' I actually tackled him, one on one. I got lucky on that."
The Panthers have lost 25 of their last 26 games, so the biggest challenge this week might be finding enough tickets for the friends and family of Miami area Bulls.
"Everybody, my coaches, my mom, a lot of kids I grew up with," linebacker Sabbath Joseph said. "I have 16 tickets, and it's still not enough."
Joseph said he knows several FIU players and has been trading calls with them, excited about the grand opening of their stadium Saturday.
"The trash talking has been going since summer," Joseph said. "Monday, I was chit-chatting with my friend (defensive Anthony Gaitor) and going back and forth. … We just have to go down there and stay focused and not let down, not turn the ball over and give them any chance to hang in the game with us. … It's an away game, but I feel like it's a home game for me."
SURPRISE: The most surprising success this fall has been USF's women's soccer team, which went 4-10-3 last season, scoring just nine goals in its first year under coach Denise Schilte-Brown.
This fall, with a lineup full of newcomers, the Bulls are 3-1-2 with seven goals. Six true freshmen started in Sunday's win against Illinois State, and freshmen Chelsea Klotz and Noelle Pineiro scored all three goals.
"We knew we'd be a young team, but we didn't want to use that as an excuse or a crutch," said Schilte-Brown, whose team has also overcome the loss of last year's top scorer, Lindsay Brauer, who was diagnosed with a heart condition before the season.
The Bulls, whose loss came in double overtime at Vanderbilt, open Big East play Friday at home against Marquette, eager to build on a promising start.
Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf.