A decisive 48-17 victory against Western Illinois didn’t surprise many watching the second half of Saturday’s game. A second half that saw no Leatherneck points and no first downs in the fourth quarter.
The surprising part should be that no one seemed shocked when sophomore defensive back J.R. Reed took his fifth interception of the season out of the air at the USF 4-yard line, ending a threatening 50-yard drive by the Leathernecks.
It seems no one was shocked to see Quinton Callum make his first start at running back and score four touchdowns, three 1-yard, leg churning runs and one 8-yard shovel pass from Marquel Blackwell. USF coach Jim Leavitt said from the beginning that any of the four running backs who have seen playing time this season are capable of being leaders on the team.
“(Callum) runs hard, he runs hard,” Leavitt said. “He told me in the middle of the week, he came up to me and he said, ‘Coach, I am ready to go this weekend; I am ready to go Saturday,’ and I said, ‘Good, because you’re going to need to be.'”
A surprise should be that 80 rushing yards from Callum didn’t lead the team – 92 yards from sophomore Vince Brewer did.
Brewer split time with Callum, due to an injury to Clenton Crossley, keeping the freshman from his fourth straight start and allowing Callum a junior college transfer to get his first.
“Quinton Callum has been a real pleasant surprise for us. That young man was one of the best running backs in the state of Florida,” Leavitt said. “He had to do quite a bit of work to get himself academically ready for South Florida. He did quite a bit of work and worked all the way through the summer to get it done and am I glad he did because he has done a great job. He is really a good football player.”
Reed’s fifth interception tied a single-season record set by now-Cleveland Brown Anthony Henry. But adding Reed’s three fumble recoveries, this season sets a record for the most takeaways.
Reed is one week removed from a 63-yard touchdown on a fumble recovery against Houston. Reed has accounted for eight turnovers in 10 games and certainly has proven to be an unwanted surprise to many opposing offensive coordinators.
“We were playing a cover two, actually we were beat for a second and I had to recover,” Reed said. “I turned around and ran full speed when I saw his eyes go up I turned around and saw the ball right there.”
A simple explanation to a play that ended WIU’s most effective drive of the second half. A second half that the Bulls defense only allowed 53 yards in 14 minutes of Leatherneck ball control.
“We put our strengths against their strengths there (in the second half),” Reed said. “We adjusted, put more ‘dbs’ on their receivers instead of linebackers and stopped them.”
In addition to Callum’s four touchdowns were a 21-yard pass and first career touchdown to Ryan Hearn, and a 5-yard roll out TD from receiver Brian Fisher in the quarterback position led to the last score. And breaking up Callum’s third and fourth touchdown was a come-to-be-expected, but never-the-less impressive ninth season touchdown run from quarterback Marquel Blackwell. Blackwell also completed 20 passes for 277 yards along with his rushing and two passing (to Callum and Hearn) touchdowns.
“We had a hard time because Marquel couldn’t run,” Leavitt said. He’s banged up and we didn’t practice him all week. He really had a foot problem and it limited our offense. He couldn’t move either way so we had to kind of sit him back and you notice that he didn’t run much (Blackwell had 3 rushes for -7 yards). We just felt like Marquel was the better guy in there even though he couldn’t run.”
- Jarrett Guthrie covers football and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org