This is how home openers should be, especially when your playing as a first time ranked team that's expected to achieve big things. The Bulls opened the season as a top 25 ranked team against UT Martin Saturday and truly played liked they belong there. The Bulls weren't caught looking ahead while routing the Skyhawks 56-7 and holding them to 97 total yards of offense in front of over 48,000 fans.
Turning Points of the Game
-Marcus Edwards set up the Bulls with excellent field position on their first drive of the game thanks to a 39-yard punt return. This gave USF the ball at the Skyhawks 31-yard line. Five plays later Grothe threw a perfect pass down the middle of the field to Jessie Hester Jr. for the first points of the game.
-The Bulls second drive of the game began at their 44-yard line. On the second play of the drive, Benjamin Williams took a hand-off and broke free and showed off some spin moves for a 45-yard gain that ended with Williams stiff-arming a player into the ground. Two plays later, Mike Ford scored on a five-yard rush to put the Bulls ahead by two touchdowns.
Running of the Bulls-
With so many talented tailbacks on the roster, Coach Jim Leavitt's goal for Saturday night was to run the ball. On the Bulls first two drives, the coaching staff chose to run the ball on nine of the first 10 plays. In fact, the Bulls carried the ball 14 times for 113 yards and three touchdowns. The trend continued throughout the game and by the end of the day, USF had rushed for 300 yards and 5 touchdowns off of 52 carries. Benjamin Williams led the team in rushing with six carries for 70 yards and a 12 yard rushing TD while Mike Ford rushed the ball 15 times for 61 yards and two scores, from five and seven yards out. The player who made the most noise though was Moise Plancher who rushed for 66 yards on eight caries and scored the first TD of his career on a 34-yard run in the third quarter. He then followed that up with 13 yard score for the game's final points. Starter Jamar Taylor added 41 yards on five carries as well.
Backing Up Grothe
Matt Grothe could not have had a better first quarter for the opening game of the season. At the end of the first quarter, Grothe had completed 4-4 for 64 yards including an 18-yard touchdown to Jessie Hester Jr. Grant Gregory took over for Grothe at the start of the second quarter. His time on the field ended seven plays into his opening drive after his pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and then intercepted by Tennessee Martin. Grothe returned for the remainder of the quarter and found Hester Jr. again, this time for a 22 yard score. In the second half, Gregory and newcomer B.J. Daniels split time. Gregory would open the half under center and completed 4-7 for 38 yards while Daniels looked impressive completing all four of his pass attempts for 86 yards. His own lineman inadvertently caused Daniels lone mistake, a fumble that turned into the Skyhawks only points of the game.
Edwards shows why he's special
Marcus Edwards did everything he could on Saturday to set the offense with the best possible field position. Edwards returned seven punts for 124 yards with his longest return going for 39 yards. In fact his first return was longer then any punt return made all of last season. The Bulls longest return last year came courtesy of Amarri Jackson who broke free for 37 yards. Also, Edwards set a single game record for most punt return yards with 124 on seven returns. Ean Randolph held the previous record of 123 yards.
Showing the Love
A strong preseason performance led to A.J. Love climbing to the top of the depth chart and being named a starting WR for USF on Saturday night. During the game, Love showed some of the flash and skill he became known for during summer workouts. In the first quarter, Love helped set the tone by catching passes for gains of 11 and 18 yards on a drive that ended one play later with a six yard score by Mike Ford. For the game, Love caught four passes for 57 yards while rushing for 10 yards on a reverse. Later in the game, Love was stripped of his first touchdown of the year after his 38-yard reception was negated by an illegal shift penalty.
Replacing the Draftees
One of the biggest question's leading into the 2008 season was how the Bulls would replace NFL draftees Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams. On Saturday, Tyller Roberts and Jerome Murphy passed their first test. Well it was more like a quiz. The secondary helped in holding Tennessee Martin's quarterbacks to completing only nine of 36 passes for 38 yards. The defensive highlight came courtesy of Murphy who saved an early touchdown by leaping in the end zone to deflect what looked to be a perfect Thompson pass. Along with the key deflection, Murphy registered two tackles and one assist. Roberts added two tackles as well.
Big Hit of the night
With 7:35 left in the 3rd quarter, QB Cade Thompson looked to have converted on a 3rd and 7 with a screen pass to Roren Thomas. Unfortunately for Thomas, CB Quenton Washington was waiting for him and absolutely laid out Thomas for a four-yard loss before he even had a chance.
Pass of the Game
B.J. Daniels made his official debut for the Bulls and it seemed to be a successful one minus a fumble that was actually caused by his own lineman. Daniels showed flashes of what fans and coaches are expecting to see from him. His best showing came in late in the third quarter though. Facing 3rd and four on the Bulls 27-yard line, Daniels dropped back and launched a picture perfect pass into the hands of Dontavia Bogan, who was running a slant route for a 37-yard gain.
Quote of the Game
After being asked about choosing Jamar Taylor as the starting running back Coach Leavitt said. "Is that who we started? I had no idea."
Making an Immediate Impact
The one Bull who made the most of his first game at USF was Theo Wilson. If you were unfamiliar with Wilson prior to Saturday's game, you should know who he is and how fast he truly is. Early on in the fourth quarter, Wilson made his mark on special teams after picking up a bouncing punt and taking it to the house for a 67 yard score.
Sub of the Game
Earlier this week, Coach Leavitt talked about how well Moise Plancher was playing but they just couldn't fit him in to the rotation. Plancher entered the game in the second half on Saturday and rushed for 66 yards on eight carries and two scores. His first touchdown, which went for 34 yards, was also the first of his career. He helped cement the victory with a 13-yard rush for the game's final score.
28, 29 - MO