It wasn’t a surprise to see redshirt-freshman quarterback Pat Julmiste enter Saturday’s game against Charleston Southern midway through the second quarter. USF was nursing a 24-0 lead at the time, and the score would have kept inflating had the starters continued to play.
But what was a surprise was whom Julmiste replaced on the Bulls’ sixth possession of the game. It was Brian Fisher who came out of the game, not Ronnie Banks.
Unbeknownst to everyone outside of the team, Banks had been given the night off for USF’s 55-7 victory in front of 28,365 Bulls faithfuls at Raymond James Stadium, though he was dressed for the game on the sidelines.
“He was a little bit sore from the past few games,” USF coach Jim Leavitt said. “We just thought we’d hold him out.”
Fisher became just the fifth quarterback to start a game in the program’s history, one week after replacing Banks toward the end of a 13-10 loss to No. 13 TCU last Friday, which snapped the Bulls’ home winning streak. However, Leavitt left no question on who will start at quarterback when the Bulls (4-2, 2-1 C-USA) travel to Hattiesburg, Miss., on Saturday to face Southern Miss in a very important Conference USA game.
“(Banks) is our starting quarterback,” Leavitt said.
The decision to rest Banks was made Thursday, and although the junior knew he likely wouldn’t see any time, he said it was awkward remaining on the sidelines.
“It felt funny,” Banks said. “Your competitive nature wants you to go out there and compete.
“It was the best situation to (rest) this week. (But) I wanted to go out and battle with those guys.”
Leavitt ultimately chose to start Fisher because of Julmiste’s lack of experience.
“Pat had never started, and we just felt Brian would be better to start the game,” Leavitt said. “We though we’d go with Brian just so he could play a little quarterback, and then put Pat in for the majority.”
With the starting quarterback on the sidelines, USF relied on the ground attack, which enjoyed its best game of the season with 250 yards and six touchdowns.
Junior running back Clenton Crossley led the Bulls, compiling 105 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns. Crossley became the first Bull in 27 games to produce a 100-yard rushing game, thanks in part to a 58-yard fake punt run early in the second quarter, setting up his first of two scores on the night.
“Man, I’ve been so close so many times; I knew it was coming soon,” Crossley said.
The timing couldn’t have been better for the Bulls to put together a big rushing attack, as the team seldom used the passing game. USF attempted a season-low 11 passes and completed just three for 79 total yards. The only highlight came via Joe Bain’s 53-yard touchdown grab from Julmiste in the third quarter, which was the first career touchdown for both players.
The defense shined against the lowly Buccaneers, allowing just 134 total yards and a school-record -52 rushing yards. The Bulls also got six sacks, two each coming from Johnnie Jones and Matt Groelinger.
Though the Bulls didn’t overlook the last non-conference game of the season, the team’s mindset definitely shifted more towards the conference race.
“The only thing we took from this game was getting better,” senior linebacker Maurice Jones said. “We couldn’t have a let down and just show up expecting to win. We had to perform and work hard and get after them a little bit.
“We got a win and now we’re moving on, going to Hattiesburg with some momentum.”