Bulls shut out in season opener against NC State

Senior linebacker Antonio Grier (5) had eight tackles and a sack against NC State on Thursday night. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

It wasn’t pretty for the USF football team in the season opener against NC State, falling to the Wolfpack 45-0 on Thursday night in Carter-Finley Stadium.

“I’m just really disappointed, obviously, because we did not play our best, we didn’t play anywhere close to how we’re capable,” coach Jeff Scott said. “A lot of the things we talked about all offseason and all fall camp [that we wanted to avoid] unfortunately showed up tonight … [I] just never really felt like we could get it in rhythm, and that was disappointing because I really felt like we were going to play a lot better than that.

“When you make those kinds of mistakes against a good team like that, sometimes you get the results that we had tonight. The message to our guys is, ‘This is 100% unacceptable and every coach, every player has to own it. We’ve got to learn from it and we’ve got to move on.’”

The Bulls’ offense failed to get much going in the first quarter, and Scott made a decision early to make a change at quarterback.

Over a week before kickoff, sophomore quarterback Cade Fortin was named the starter via a Twitter post from the official USF football account. However, the sophomore struggled to settle into the game and was pulled after five drives, completing just three passes for zero yards.

“Ultimately, we just weren’t moving the ball,” Scott said. “Some of it, yeah [Fortin didn’t] make some throws here and there, but when we decided to change it up and put [freshman quarterback Timmy McClain] in there, [it was] because we had to do something because we just weren’t moving the ball at all.”

McClain stepped into the game in relief and provided the offense with a new rushing dynamic. The Sanford native found mild success on his first drive using his legs, and hit junior wide receiver Xavier Weaver over the top for 44 yards on his third drive, the Bulls’ longest play of the night.

But he soon found the Wolfpack defense just as hard to break down, throwing two interceptions by the time his night was over. After McClain’s second pick, Fortin reentered the game.

“I felt like Timmy got in there and was able to make some plays and do some things,” Scott said. “But he just had some critical mistakes that he will learn from in the red zone.”

When Fortin was reinserted back into the game late in the third quarter with the result all but final, he converted a third down to senior receiver Bryce Miller, the Bulls’ first conversion on third down of the night. However, the series ended with an interception.

It wasn’t any easier for the defensive unit against the prolific running game NC State boasted. The Wolfpack’s backfield combination of sophomore Zonovan Knight and junior Ricky Person Jr. haunted the Bulls throughout the first half. Both backs eclipsed 100 yards on the ground before the break. 

“[It’s down to the] execution on our side,” senior linebacker Andrew Mims said. “It’s just minor details we have to get right, little things that I’ve got to clean up. We’ve got to keep our heads up, this is just a learning experience.”

Mims ended the night with 14 tackles, a game-high for both teams.

The Bulls will have nine days to prepare for yet another daunting task, hosting the No. 17 Florida Gators at Raymond James Stadium.

“This is our first game, we’ve got 11 games ahead for us,” Scott said. “I expect our guys … when we get back Saturday morning, [to] watch the tape, grade it, learn from it and then to show back up on Monday and get ready for the next one.

“We’ve got a lot of ball left. I know that we’re much better than we showed tonight.”

USF’s home opener against UF is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11. The game will be televised on ABC.