After halftime, there was nothing left to see.
Andre Hall had three touchdowns, the defense was dominating, USF led 30-0 and most importantly Ã¢€” the Florida A&M band had just finished its rousing performance.
Exit USF starters and fans.
A week after a hard fought loss at Penn State, USF made it look easy against their Division I-AA opponent, winning 37-3 before a crowd of 43,122, the largest ever to see a Bulls game at Raymond James Stadium.
With Hall leading the way in the first half, the Bulls racked up 301 yards (224 on the ground) and scored on five of their first seven possessions Ã¢€” if it weren’t for two missed field goals, USF would’ve scored on its first seven.
“We knew we wanted to run the ball because it sets everything else up,” coach Jim Leavitt said. “We were really disappointed we didn’t run the ball better against Penn State.”
Hall finished with 156 yards on 18 carries (8.7 average) and scored three times, including a shifty 31-yard TD run in the second quarter.
USF’s other backs had their say and helped USF finish with a school record 377 yards on the ground. Ricky Ponton had 83 yards and a 2-yard touchdown run and Chad Simpson finished with 91 yards.
“I thought all three guys ran hard,” Leavitt said. “That was encouraging.”
“The guys came out and made nice holes,” Hall said. “I don’t even care how many yards I got, it doesn’t even matter. We got the W. That’s all I’m aiming at.”
If the running game was a team effort then so was the defense. After playing well against Penn State a week ago, the Bulls defense completely crushed FAMU’s offense, holding it 85 yards of total offense, the lowest output in the Rattler’s 100-year history.
At halftime, FAMU had 21 yards of offense on 20 plays. The Bulls didn’t allow a first down until the third quarter and would’ve pitched a shutout had it not been for a punt block and untimely penalties.
“That’s the only reason they got three points,” defensive tackle Tim Brown said.
Coming in, USF was expected to dominate FAMU, which is still suffering from the ongoing NCAA investigations into its athletic department and the subsequent firing of coach Billy Joe.
Leavitt addressed that after the game, saying, “They’ve gone through a lot, we all know that. We played in the first half like I guess we should. We know it’s a tough situation for them.”
As starters sat in the second half, backup quarterbacks Courtney Denson and true freshman Carlton Hill saw some action under center in the second half. Denson, who started and played only three series against Penn State, was 2-for-7 and threw for 42 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown pass to Cedric Hill in the third quarter. Carlton Hill threw one incomplete pass in his debut at quarterback. Starter Pat Julmiste was efficient, completing 6-10 passes for 71 yards.
USF will now prepare for Central Florida, whose 16-game losing streak is the longest in the nation.Leavitt apparently was thinking about the much-anticipated UCF game before the final whistle.
“I was thinking about Central Florida for most of the second half, at times, in moments,” he said. “We know that we have to get better. We know that Central Florida is a very good football team.”