TAMPA — It is not the ideal scenario for a true freshman quarterback to be making his first college start: national television, road game, facing a defense that leads the nation in takeaways.
But that’s the challenge facing University of South Florida freshman Mike White when he leads the Bulls (2-5, 2-1 American Athletic Conference) against the Houston Cougars (6-1, 3-1) in Thursday night’s ESPN game at Reliant Stadium.
USF teammates and coaches expressed confidence in White during Monday’s practice.
“It has been a challenge for us through this entire year,’’ said USF coach Willie Taggart, whose Bulls haven’t scored an offensive touchdown in 12 consecutive quarters and have just six all season, last nationally.
“I don’t think going on the road in a short week is going to be that much more of a challenge. We’re trying to find a way to spark some offense. We’ve got nowhere to go but up offensively. Hopefully, Mike can help us with that. Everybody has to step up — not just Mike — to make sure he’s successful in this game.’’
White, 6-foot-4, 186 pounds, played two possessions in Saturday’s 34-3 home loss against Louisville. He will be USF’s fourth starting quarterback in eight games, along with Matt Floyd, Bobby Eveld and Steven Bench. White committed to USF on Dec. 8, 2012, moments after leading Fort Lauderdale University School to the Class 3A state title — the same day Taggart was introduced as the Bulls’ head coach.
“I think Mike will be all right,’’ said USF redshirt freshman defensive lineman Daniel Perry, who was White’s high school teammate. “I’ve seen him do some impressive things. He has a really big arm. I’ve seen him tear our defense apart (in practice). I think he’s ready to play.’’
SHAW COULD PLAY: Taggart said there’s a “great chance’’ senior RB Marcus Shaw will play at Houston. Shaw hasn’t played since Oct. 5, when he suffered a hamstring injury and was 10th nationally in rushing (110.4).
“I don’t want to take anything away from (Michael) Pierre and (Darius) Tice, but throughout the first four games, you saw the production Shaw was giving us,’’ Bulls junior OT Darrell Williams said. “I think he’ll be a big boost if he’s able to go this week.’’
BULLS BITS: USF at Houston is a matchup of true freshman quarterbacks from Broward County. Houston starts John O’Korn, of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, who completed 24 of 30 passes for 364 yards and five touchdowns in Saturday’s 49-14 win at Rutgers. …Houston will wear special black-on-black alternate uniforms — including red helmets with black face masks and a black UH logo — for the Halloween game. USF is scheduled to wear white jerseys, gold helmets and gold pants. …Houston is the only Football Bowl Subdivision team to score in every quarter this year (28) and has scored in 35 consecutive quarters dating to last season.