For a while, it looked like USF might be in for that 60-minute battle with Wofford coach Jim Leavitt talked about all last week.
After being locked in a 7-7 tie for much of the first half, USF eventually pulled away, using a 24-point second half to come away with a 40-7 victory at Raymond James Stadium in the season opener Saturday night.
“They got some plays on us, but we made some turnovers and made some big plays ourselves,” said USF defensive end George Selvie, who had a sack and seven tackles. “(We only gave up) seven points. That’s always good.”
On the opening drive of the game, USF marched down the field with a 12-play scoring drive capped off by senior running back Mo Plancher’s 4-yard touchdow run, his first of two in the game.
Wofford came right back on its opening drive with a score of its own, a 13-play, 69-yard drive that ended in a touchdown run by Eric Breitenstein.
And for most of the first half, Wofford’s triple option gave USF all it could handle.
“I really hope I don’t see that again,” Leavitt said. “That was one of the most difficult preparations I’ve ever been a part of. (Defensive coordinator) Joe (Tresey) made some good adjustments at halftime.”
The score remained 7-7 for the majority of the first half until USF scored nine points in the final few minutes. Midway through the third quarter, it was still a two-possession game until Delbert Alvarado hit a 30-yard field goal to put USF up 26-7.
“We knew coming in they were a good team and that their offense was tricky,” said USF freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels, who got playing time in the third quarter. “We knew we were going to be in a little bit of a position. We just tried to capitalize and not turn over the ball.”
USF fumbled four times but recovered three of them.
In the second quarter, USF running back Aston Samuels fumbled on his first carry of the game and Wofford drove it deep into USF territory again but missed a field goal.
On the following drive, USF drove inside Wofford’s 5-yard line but USF senior quarterback Matt Grothe threw an interception in the end zone.
“It was a good play by their safety not to bite on the play action,” he said. “It was a hit or miss. I missed.”
Grothe went 19 of 23 with 155 yards passing and also had 44 yards rushing. Grothe needs just 88 yards to surpass former West Virginia quarterback Pat White for the all-time Big East yardage mark.
Plancher, who was expected to see a lot of carries, had 78 yards rushing in addition to his two touchdowns. He also had two rushing touchdowns in last year’s season opening victory against UT Martin.
“He kept good balance out there,” Leavitt said. “He did a good job.”
In the third quarter, with the game still relatively close, Leavitt put Daniels in the game for Grothe. After USF recovered a fumble inside Wofford territory, Daniels led USF inside Wofford’s 15-yard line, eventually leading to a field goal by Alvarado.
“We had not won that game yet,” Leavitt said. “We got to get (Daniels) playing. (Offensive coordinator) Mike (Canales) talked to me about putting him in during the first half. He’s a very talented guy.”
The Bulls did suffer one blow, however, as sophomore safety Jerrell Young broke his arm and may miss an extended period of time.