The statistics from the first quarter hinted there would be a quarterback change. Brian Fisher was the first to go and freshman Pat Julmiste followed him shortly after. The two replaced Ronnie Banks at quarterback before halftime in Friday’s 24-17 double-overtime victory against Cincinnati. Fisher and Julmiste turned Banks’ starting woes, which netted just three yards passing and negative two yards rushing, into 97 combined yards in the third quarter. And seeing how the pair helped pull off a victory, a quarterback change could come earlier next time, as USF coach Jim Leavitt said he’d feel comfortable starting Fisher or Julmiste.
“I’m always confident with Brian. Brian’s such a heady ball player. I’m always confident with him during anything. We really wanted to bring Pat along … and it just felt like it was the time,” Leavitt said.
Leavitt has often relied on Fisher, a junior wide receiver, at quarterback when USF needs to move the ball in the end zone, as he’s done many times this season.
But with USF needing to win its final four games this season for a possible bowl berth, Leavitt didn’t wait as long on Friday. Fisher replaced Banks in the middle of the second quarter after he completed just one of six passes for three yards during the two-minute possession the Bulls had in the first quarter.
“It was my decision. It’s not anything against Ronnie Banks. He’s still in the hunt,” Leavitt said. “We just had a better shot at some things with Brian and Pat.”
If there is indeed a hunt to find the best man for quarterback, Julmiste may not be overlooked to rotate during the second half. However, the only game time Julmiste has seen this season was mop-up duty against Army and shared duty with Fisher against Division I-AA Charleston Southern.
But in the must-win game, Julmiste made his second career touchdown pass, a 36-yard strike to Elgin Hicks in the third quarter, tying the game at seven.Julmiste said Leavitt warned him during the game that there would be changes at quarterback.
“Coach just told me to be ready for whenever my number was called,” Julmiste said.
For the remainder of the game Julmiste and Fisher rotated to help the Bulls get in the red zone. The Bulls got 97 yards on 21 plays in the third quarter, compared to 65 yards total on 26 plays in the first half.
“We were struggling a little bit, but we made a change at the right time,” said linebacker Courtney Davenport following USF’s win.
But whether Leavitt would actually use Fisher or Julmiste to start one of USF’s remaining three games remains unseen. Leavitt said he wasn’t sure when he would make a decision on quarterback for East Carolina on Saturday.
Julmiste said he would feel comfortable starting a game with the advice Banks has given him, but he added that Fisher would be more likely to start.
“Fisher is a team player. He’ll get it done and I look up to him,” Julmiste said.
But Julmiste said he doesn’t see any permanent changes following Friday’s game.
“Right now, Ronnie is still our quarterback,” Julmiste said.
Former USF quarterback Marquel Blackwell, who attended the game, said the quarterback changes don’t mean Leavitt has doubts about Banks.
“Coach is just trying to do what’s best for the team, whoever is to play the role,” Blackwell said. “What I saw was we just needed to finish. From Ronnie Banks’ standpoint, he worked hard. Everyone’s just got a lot of pressure on him, but he’ll be OK. I’ll talk to him — he just needs to hang in there.”