TAMPA, Fla. — This is it baby!
The start of the 2014 NCAA football season has arrived all across the country and even across the Atlantic Ocean, not to mention right here next to the bay in the city of Tampa.
The start of the game and of the season was delayed by inclement weather in the vicinity of Raymond James Stadium, it was just an a 69 minute wait before the kickoff.
When the stormy sky past by and allowed the University of South Florida opened up the season at home inside Raymond James Stadium against Western Carolina University.The Bulls are 13-5 all-time in season openers and 17-1 opening the season at Raymond James.
It was a struggle for the University of South Florida offensively and defensively but the Bulls defeated Western Carolina University 36-31 but the Catamounts did have the 31,651 in attendance at Raymond James Stadium sitting on the edge of there seat with concern.
University of South Florida football coach Willie Taggart placed his offense in the hands and the shoes of freshman running back Marlon Mack.
Mack scored four touchdowns on runs of 62, 60, 56 and five yards, his second touchdown of the night gave the Bulls the lead for the first time and at the 4:37 mark of the third quarter, his run also seemed to spark the defense.
Mack finished the game with 24 rushing attempts for 275 yards and his name is firmly placed in the USF history book. His 275 yards is the most by a freshman at USF. The pervious mark was held by Rafael Williams who ran for 197 yards against Morehead State University back in October, 1997.
Taggart said during the week that the past is the past and this program is looking toward a brand new start.
“A good win for our football team, very excited about our guys they dealt with adversity,” Taggart said. “Preaching that to our guys all training camp, all off season about adversity and how to deal with it and I’m very proud with the way they dealt with it.”
“Didn’t see anybody with there heads down on the sideline, didn’t hear any argument,” Taggart continued. “Heard a lot of guys encouraging and it paid off for us. It was something that needed to happen.”
Western Carolina University won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball first.
At first, the Bulls’ 3-4 defense struggled getting into sync but the defense forced the first turnover of the season. Bulls’ linebacker Nigel Harris forced a fumble by running back Darius Ramsey and the ball was recovered by defensive tackle Todd Chandler.
University of South Florida’s quarterback Mike White brought the offense out on the field for the first offensive series and his first pass of the season completed to Deonte Welch for no gain.
Taggart showed that this is not going to be an ordinary season, he decided to keep the offense on the field with the ball on the WCU 36-yard line with five-yards to go and fourth down.
The first offense series for the Bulls lasted four plays because the pass sailed over the head of Andre Davis who was streaking alone down the sideline.
The first quarter was won by Western Caroline University’s offense as they exposed the 3-4 defense and the holes in the scheme .
“Proud of effort of the guys they came out and you know first ball game of the year a lot of unknowns,” Western Carolina University football coach Mark Speir said after the game. “They fought hard and proud of the effort, proud of the way they fought for 60 minutes got an opportunity at the last play of the game go a try to win a ball game but there are no moral victories in Cullowhee, you either win or lose.”
In the first quarter, the Bulls defense could not stop Catamount quarterback Troy Mitchell, as he was able to obtain the corners with the bubble screen pass and by being able to get comfortable in the pocket-there was no pressure.
“I thought that Troy threw the ball well and made good decisions,” Speir said. “Our receivers ran hard after the catch and at times we ran the ball okay.”
Mitchell threw the ball 66 times against the Bulls competing 46 for 342 yards. He threw two touchdown passes, no interceptions and was sacked four times.
At the end of the first quarter Western Carolina University had gained 179 yards of total offense and 14 points the 21-game on the road losing streak looked like to becoming to an end and that WCU would get their best win of the program’s history – it did not happen.
In the second quarter, the complexity of the game changed, Mitchell was not free in the pocket, the corner were covered and the running game disappeared.
In the second half Mack made his appearance known and will make Taggart decision about who to start in the backfield challenging.
“That was a show, I told our football team before the game some people show up in the spot light and some people run away,” Taggart said about the performance of his freshman running back. “The spot light came and he showed up and he showed out!”
Taggart said that he is not giving up the bus instead he just improved it to a Mack bus.
Bulls fans are just happy with the rocking to the ride of the Mack and with the first victory of the season.
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.