If the plan was to not show too much on offense, it worked.
USF’s 21-7 win against Tennessee Tech was closer than the score indicated — the Golden Eagles were within one touchdown in the fourth quarter. Most of the game it looked as though something curbed the Bulls’ eagerness to play.
“Certainly we didn’t play real well,” coach Jim Leavitt said. “You all saw that. We made a lot of mistakes. We were probably fortunate we didn’t play Pittsburgh the first week.”
The postponement of the Pittsburgh game and a big road game against South Carolina this week seemed to have a big effect on the Bulls’ game plan Saturday. Namely, what looked like a subdued offensive approach.
But USF was able to accomplish some of the things it needed to in its first game of the season. Andre Hall scored USF’s first points of the season with his first touchdown as a Bull in the first quarter. Pat Julmiste, in only his third start for the Bulls, scored his first-ever rushing touchdown. And the defense looked strong throughout.
“Defensively, I thought we did some nice things,” Leavitt said.
Up by only a touchdown in the fourth quarter, freshman Trae Williams picked off a Robert Craft pass and returned it 37 yards to seal the game.
Williams finished the game at left corner after starter Mike Jenkins left the game with a concussion.
“We got a win,” Leavitt said. “And I’m happy about that because it was tight.
“But we did win. And you can call it ugly or any way you want to call it but it is a win. We’ve had ugly wins and I don’t mind that.”
But while some questions were answered, others were not.
One issue yet to be settled is whether the offense will be better than it was last season. Even if the offense was holding something back, it didn’t look good doing it.
“We struggled on offense,” Leavitt said. “Our quarterback play was not strong. Everybody can see that we need to strengthen our quarterback play. We struggled last year off and on.”
Between Julmiste and Ronnie Banks, USF only had 93 passing yards. The Bulls had less than 100 yards passing only one time all last season, against Division I-AA Charleston Southern, when they completed for only 79.
“Last year the defense carried us,” Julmiste said. “This year I want to change that.”
Julmiste left the game after his touchdown and never returned. He said he turned his knee on the play before the touchdown. Leavitt said he could not comment on Julmiste’s status.
With both of USF’s touchdowns coming on the ground, the running game was a bright spot.
“I was encouraged with Andre Hall,” Leavitt said. “I thought he ran real hard. He looks like he has a chance to be a decent back.”
Hall and Clenton Crossley combined for 143 yards rushing. The team rushed for 185 yards. J.B. Garris had 25 yards on a reverse.
After the teams traded punts for nearly a quarter, USF found itself with a good field position: TTU’s 37-yard line. Garris’ reverse and a 16-yard pass to Allynson Sheffield set up Andre Hall’s 2-yard touchdown run.
After USF blocked Chris Cummings’ punt at the start of the second quarter, USF had good field position again at the Golden Eagles’ 21. Runs by Julmiste and Crossley got the Bulls to the goal line, setting up Julmiste’s 3-yard touchdown run to make the score 14-0.
TTU got within striking distance after intercepting a Banks pass and two USF pass interference penalties. Robert Craft then connected with Trey Bonner for an 8-yard touchdown pass to pull the Golden Eagles to within a touchdown.
“I know they want to come back and work hard (next week at South Carolina). We certainly have a very good football team that we play next week. We certainly know we need to play better. If we play like we did tonight it would be a rough, long day up there,” Leavitt said.