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USF running game returns in third quarter

TAMPA — For a half Friday, USF had nearly abandoned its running game. But the Bulls found it in the third quarter in sophomore Jamar Taylor.

After giving its running backs only four carries in the first half, USF put the ball in Taylor's hands, and he delivered. Taylor had runs of 13 and 19 yards on the first drive, which ended with a field goal, and a 20-yarder to set up the tying touchdown on the next.

Momentum shifted when Taylor broke through for a 13-yard touchdown late in the third quarter that gave USF a 27-20 lead. Taylor had 69 yards in the third quarter, more than he had in any previous game. He finished with 72 yards on 11 carries.

With their top two running backs still recovering from ankle injuries, the Bulls made little attempt at a running game early, putting the offensive burden squarely on quarterback Matt Grothe.

The Bulls ran the ball only eight times in the first half — against 26 passes — and Grothe had half the carries. Among the Bulls' 172 yards of offense in the first half, Grothe accounted for 163 (95 percent).

RBs Mike Ford and Ben Williams, who injured their ankles during the season-opening win against Tennessee-Martin, were nonfactors for the second week in a row. Ford didn't play last weekend at UCF and Williams had one carry for a 1-yard loss.

Friday, Ford had one carry for 3 yards and Williams caught one pass for a 1-yard loss.

Against UCF, the Bulls leaned heavily on running backs Mo Plancher and Richard Kelly, who combined for 89 yards and a touchdown. Against Kansas, Plancher had six carries for 15 yards in the first half. Kelly didn't get a touch.

USF had at least 33 rushing attempts in all 13 games last season and averaged 48 in its first two wins this season.

debuts: USF had a first-time starter on the offensive line as sophomore Jake Sims, a former walk-on, was at right guard in place of Zach Hermann, who is out at least a month with a broken foot. Defensive tackle Terrell McClain also made his first start. And USF opened in a nickel defense, giving safety Danny Verpaele his first start since 2006.

THIS AND THAT: USF opened with three tight ends — Cedric Hill, Trent Pupello and Ben Busbee — for a 3-yard run by Plancher. … Team captains were S Carlton Williams, LB Tyrone McKenzie, C Jake Griffin and WR Marcus Edwards.

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com and at (813) 226-3346.

USF running game returns in third quarter 09/12/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 15, 2008 3:39pm]

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