TAMPA — Much of the talk in preseason was about USF's depth at running back, how the Bulls had several backs capable of piling up yards. Saturday's opener against Tennessee-Martin showed how well the Bulls backs can complement each other.
Senior Ben Williams and sophomore Jamar Taylor were in the starting backfield, but fittingly, sophomore Mike Ford was in on the next play, carrying on the next three plays.
"We have a pretty good group of running backs," said Williams, who finished with a game-high 70 yards on six carries. "Everybody works hard at practice, gives it their best, and it showed tonight in the game."
The backs often finished each other's drives. Williams went 45 yards on his first carry, then saw Ford score on a 4-yard run. Two drives later, Taylor had runs of 6 and 9 yards to set up a Williams touchdown.
Even junior Moise Plancher, a former starter limited by injuries the past two seasons, got in on the fun, scampering 35 yards for his first career touchdown in the third quarter. He added a 13-yard score in the fourth.
"I was really happy for all the running backs, but happy for Mo, because he's gone through so much," USF coach Jim Leavitt said. In addition to the injuries, Plancher had a family tragedy in the offseason when his cousin, UCF freshman WR Ereck Plancher, collapsed and died during a team workout.
INJURY CONCERNS: TE Trent Pupello, the Jefferson grad and Florida transfer, made his USF debut and played extensively, but left with an ankle injury that Leavitt said he was concerned about. OT Ryan Schmidt left with a right knee injury but appeared to be fine on the sidelines.
NICE START: USF's 28 points in the opening quarter were its most ever in the first and tied the most in any quarter, set five previous times.
KICKING WOES: K/P Delbert Alvarado missed his only field goal, coming up short on a 46-yard attempt. Alvarado went 8-for-8 on extra points and only had to punt once, for 43 yards.
WELCOME: WR A.J. Love, DT Sampson Genus and LB Kion Wilson made their first starts and three others — Taylor and CBs Jerome Murphy and Tyller Roberts — made their second.
Six Bulls made their debuts on the opening kickoff alone, including Gibbs' Jerrell Young and Wharton's LaDre Watkins. Three other true freshmen — QB B.J. Daniels, WR Daniel Bryant and OL Danous Estenor — later debuted.
THIS AND THAT: The announced attendance of 48,058 is the fifth-most for USF at Raymond James Stadium, and about 15,000 more than the Bulls drew for last year's season opener. … Senior S Carlton Williams had his first interception since 2005, a span of 27 games.