After the Catamounts started to gain a little momentum converting two first downs on the opening drive, running back Darius Ramsey fumbled the football away to the swarming Bulls defense. After the Bulls offense stalled and failed to convert on a fourth down conversion, the Bulls intercepted a pass from Catamount receiver Terryon Robinson on a trick play that involved a pass back to the quarterback downfield.
Shortly after, the Bulls returned the favor after quarterback Mike White had his pass intercepted and the Catamounts took advantage. On the following drive, the spread offense and up tempo style of play from the Catamounts seemed to give the Bulls headaches as Western Carolina was able to strike first with a 12 play, 58-yard touchdown drive that was capped off by a 4-yard touchdown run by quarterback Troy Mitchell.
The Bulls’ responded with a 47-yard field goal by kicker Marvin Kloss that made the score 7-3, but it wouldn’t hold for long as the Catamounts answered right back with a 9 play, 88-yard touchdown drive that was finished with a 2-yard touchdown run by Ramsey just as the first quarter came to an end.
The Bulls added three more points to their score with another Kloss field halfway through the second quarter, this time from 33-yards out.
The scoring didn’t stop there.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Bulls trimmed the deficit to one point after running back Marlon Mack had a 62-yard burst for a touchdown on the first play of the drive.
The Catamounts didn’t take long to answer adding three more points to add to their lead, but USF didn’t go into halftime without a response of their own. The Bulls drove down the field to add another three points before the end of the half with another field goal from Kloss from 26 yards and trailed at halftime 17-16.
The Catamounts surprised the Bulls out of halftime with an onside kick attempt that was recovered by Western Carolina, but the offense stalled and was forced to punt.
The defense for the Bulls seemed to be able to contain the Catamount offense. When I asked head coach Willie Taggart what adjustments they made, he simply responded “We just started making plays. Our d-line started to play like they were capable of playing and putting pressure on the quarterback.”
Midway through the third quarter, Mack had another big run for a touchdown with his second one of the day going for 60 yards and giving the Bulls a lead of 23-17 after three quarters.
Mack wasn’t done there as he scored his third rushing touchdown early in the fourth quarter extending the Bulls lead to 30-17.
But the Catamounts weren’t going away easy in the fourth quarter.
The Catamounts drove down the field to score another touchdown with just under six minutes left to go in the game making the score 30-24. That meant another opportunity for Mack to get another touch in and he did.
Mack had one final big run left in his system with a 56 yard touchdown run to extend the lead yet again and in the process tying the schools single-game rushing record with 275 yards rushing. The run sealed the win as the Bulls were able to hold on with a 36-31 victory.
Some takeaways from the game include the emergence of Mack. Mack shined in his first start at running back and has shown he has the potential to have a bright career at South Florida.
The Bulls face stronger competition next week as the Maryland Terrapins roll into town.