After an offensively impressive loss to Houston on Halloween night that got Bulls’ fans thinking freshman quarterback Mike White would be the savior of an otherwise struggling USF passing game, the 18-year-old signal caller struggled during his first home game and second loss.
But even coming off a one-touchdown, four-interception performance in the 23-10 loss to Memphis, it doesn’t seem that White, like several other USF quarterbacks, will be returning to the bench.
“He took (the loss) hard, but he bounced back Sunday and was in there learning, reading and trying to get better,” offensive coordinator Walt Wells said. “I’m glad to see that he took it hard, but he’s a baseball pitcher too. He’s given up ding-dongs to lose games. You have to have a short-term
memory as an athlete, and he has that mentality.”
In USF’s last home game this Saturday, the Bulls will take on SMU for Senior Night, and though White’s mentality may be a plus, the numbers he put up in his first two starts shouldn’t be overlooked.
White remains the only USF quarterback this season to have completed more than 50 percent of his passes through two games. More importantly, those passes have gone to the right people.
Junior receiver Andre “Freakshow” Davis wasn’t putting on much of a show for anyone through seven games with three different quarterbacks, totaling 20 catches with a touchdown in Week 1 and didn’t eclipse the 100-yard mark once. He had a game high five catches.
Since White has stepped on the field in the last two games, Davis has had 16 receptions with a touchdown and consecutive
“Mike feels comfortable throwing him the ball because he knows he’s going to go up and get it,” Wells said.
Davis hadn’t had a 100-yard game since Week 2 of last season with B.J. Daniels slinging the ball.
“I think the one thing with Andre is you notice him in practice where at first he was a little slow with picking up things, grasping (the game plan) and being in all the different places on the field,” Wells said. “Now that he understands that, it’s paying off for him and Mike does a good job of getting him the ball.”
It’s not just Davis reaping the benefits of White’s plays either.
Coaches said the tight end position was to be highly used in the USF offense coming into the season, but like Davis, redshirt junior tight end Mike McFarland and sophomore Sean Price were being underutilized.
Through seven games of changing quarterbacks, Price and McFarland combined for 18 catches at an average 2.5
catches each game for the tight end
In White’s two starts, they’ve combined for 11 catches —
5.5 catches per game.
At the end of the day though, stats can’t win games, which White has been unable to do.
But that’s not for a lack of preparation or overthinking, Wells said. He seems to be a work in progress.
“I think the preparation is good. What I think more than anything that first week is the defense didn’t know what (White) could do,” Wells said. “Mike has got to understand there are some things people are going to do to adjust to his abilities and they’re not going to play him like they would Steven (Bench) or Bobby (Eveld). That’s part of the growing process. A lot of people are focusing on the turnovers, and rightfully so, but a couple of those were a matter of if balls he would have thrown just a little better would have been there.”
With the passing game coming along through White’s progression, Eveld, USF’s second starting quarterback of the season and only senior at the position, has been helping the newcomer in that journey.
“I just try to coach him up as much as I can. I remember being a young QB when B.J. was here,” Eveld said. “He’s a hard worker, I know that for sure. You can see that in his performance. He didn’t have such a great game last game, but it’s not because he was ill prepared I can promise you that. He’s a great kid, and he’s going to continue to get better.”
With recruiting still ahead for USF after this season, White could be the future of the Bulls’ offense.
But while White has three more years ahead of him, for some, that time is coming to an end on Senior Night — specifically Eveld.
“I’m trying not to think about it,” he said. “There will probably be a lot of emotions with it being Senior Night. Just to know I won’t step foot in that locker room or field as a player again.”
Another player who will be entering and exiting Raymond James Stadium for the last time in a USF jersey is senior running back Marcus Shaw.
Shaw said he’s given thought to the emotions that will turn up but isn’t worried in the slightest.
Another pressing issue Shaw has shrugged off is the struggling running game for USF since his return from a hamstring injury he suffered Oct. 5.
Shaw started the season with four straight 100-yard games and was a top rusher in the NCAA.
In his two starts since sitting out for two weeks, Shaw has seen a similar amount of carries with 18 and 11 respectively but has just 91 yards total in the two losses.
He declined to comment on whether he’s been getting different looks from defenses or why the ground game has slowed down, but simply said, “It’s not frustrating, it’s football.”
The running back said he’s at 110 percent going into Saturday’s game.
White’s last home game of the season, as well as Eveld and Shaw’s last home game of their career, is set to kick off at 7 p.m.