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After win, Bulls look to improve for Nevada

Published: Monday, September 3, 2012

Updated: Monday, September 3, 2012 22:09

Football

ORACLE FILE PHOTO/LUCAS CANNASTRACI

Senior kicker Maikon Bonani became USF’s leading all-time scorer with his third extra point of the game in the second quarter.

The USF football team may not have met all of its goals in its season opener against Tennessee-Chattanooga, but it met the most important one: going 1-0. The task may not be as easy, however, as the season moves along.


An up-and-down offensive performance was lifted by strong outings from the defense and special teams Saturday night, giving the Bulls a 34-13 victory to open the 2012 season against the Mocs in front of an announced crowd of 41,285. The Bulls won’t have the advantage of a Division II opponent or a raucous home crowd in their next game, however, as they head to Reno to take on the Nevada Wolf Pack.


“The goal coming into today was to be 1-0, and 50 percent of the country would trade records with us,” coach Skip Holtz said. “So I’m really proud of the team, coming in here and getting the win.”


Fans were treated to a fireworks show after the game, but the real fireworks were brought by big plays from the arm and legs of senior quarterback B.J. Daniels. With touchdown passes of 19, 38 and 39 yards and a 20-yard touchdown rumble for the final score of the game, Daniels began his senior season with a bang.


It was not without a few bumps, though, as an early fumble and an interception on a throw into double coverage late in the half resulted in 10 points scored for the Mocs.


“There were flashes of brilliance,” Holtz said. “The pass that he made to Terrence Mitchell was a great throw. I think he threw the ball relatively accurately. The one interception was a poor read and there was one play where he could’ve thrown the ball away
instead of scrambling.”


Offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said he saw both good and bad from his offense, and he says that the unit is not where it wants to be. With a more prepared opponent waiting on the horizon, Fitch said the team needs to improve, and fast.


“I was pleased with the big plays in the passing game,” Fitch said. “We limited our run game for B.J. a little bit to see where we were, and we’re not there yet. Another thing that was disappointing was our tempo. We didn’t have the tempo that we wanted to, so we have a lot of work to do. It’s good to have a win, it’s good to be back on the field, but we play a really good team in Reno this week.”


With three new starters on the offensive line, the Bulls struggled to establish a running attack.  

“I think up front we weren’t as consistent as we need to be,” Holtz said. “I did not think it was one of our better efforts as an
offensive line.”


While the USF offense struggled to maintain a consistent attack, the team’s defense established itself from the
beginning. Junior defensive end Ryne Giddins picked up 1.5 sacks in the first drive of the game, and the team’s front seven kept the pressure on all game. The unit allowed 151 yards, and limited the Mocs to two of 15 on third downs.


With Nevada’s two-headed tandem of quarterback Cody Fajardo, who passed for 230 yards and ran for 101 yards in its 31-24 win over California, and running back Stephon Jefferson, whose 147 yards and three touchdowns earned him Mountain West Player of the Week, USF defensive coordinator Chris Cosh said he knows the team will need to be ready to go against the Wolf Pack.


“What you worry about in your first game is how you tackle, and I thought overall we tackled very well,” Cosh said. “We still have a ways to go, and the key is for us to make great progress from the first game to the second game.”


With a strong special teams game across the board, USF showed a marked improvement from special teams struggles in 2011. Along with 120 yards returning and 42.2 yards per punt, senior kicker Maikon Bonani broke a USF record when he became the all-time
scoring leader in USF history with his third extra point of the game.


Defense and special teams led the way for the Bulls, but Holtz and his squad know the team’s offense will need to step up as the schedule begins to get more difficult. The Bulls will face a tough test on Saturday, when they travel to Reno to take on the Wolf Pack, which is coming off of a big road win over the California Golden Bears.


“We need to get things polished up,” Holtz said. “Next week we’ll be playing a very talented team in Nevada. They went to Cal and got a great win, they’ll be coming out with plenty of energy and we’re going to have to have a much better effort than we did tonight.”

 

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