EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Sophomore RB Willie Davis has played sparingly for the University of South Florida Bulls. But when Davis got a prime opportunity on Saturday afternoon at Rentschler Field, he resembled, well, a Bull.
It wasn’t a play that produced points. But in USF’s 13-10 victory against the Connecticut Huskies, Davis helped establish a hard-nosed attitude. Backed practically to the goal line, facing third-and-9 from the USF 3-yard line, Davis steamrolled ahead for a 16-yard gain, carrying about four players on his back as he drove for the first-down marker.
“Basically, it was all about determination with me,’’ Davis said. “The offensive line did a magnificent job of opening the hole for me. All I saw was green grass. Out of nowhere, one player tries to hit me. Next thing you know, all of the rest of them tried to tackle me.
“I wasn’t going to let them stop me. I looked over at the sideline, saw what I had to get (for the first down) and kept going. I actually felt like I could’ve (gotten more yards). I had my mind made up.’’
Davis, who hadn’t carried all season and came in with two career rushes for 7 yards, gained 38 yards on eight carries.
In the absence of injured leading rusher Marcus Shaw, USF also got valuable backfield contributions from freshman Darius Tice (11 for 69 yards with a 27-yard run) and Michael Pierre (eight for 20 yards, two receptions for 28 yards).
“Plays like that (Davis run) really get your football team going,’’ USF coach Willie Taggart said. “Everybody saw that effort. It was pretty incredible. All our backs did well. At times, we didn’t block as well up front, but they still did a good job of getting back to the line of scrimmage and getting us 1 or 2 yards.’’
(Very) special teams
It was an afternoon to remember for USF junior PK Marvin Kloss and sophomore P Mattias Ciabatti.
Kloss had field goals of 47 and 44 yards, extending his streak to nine straight, second all-time at USF, trailing only the 12 consecutive made by Maikon Bonani. He has four field goals of 47 yards or longer, the most in a single season for the Bulls. In three seasons, Bonani had six field goals of 47 yards or longer.
Meanwhile, Ciabatti had nine punts, one off the USF single-game record, for a 44.3-yard average. He dropped three inside the 20-yard line.
“Awesome, Ciabatti was awesome,’’ Taggart said. “Great job with the field position. We always talk about changing the field position. When we needed it the most, he stepped up big time. And our guys did a great job covering (punts).’’
Bobby Eveld’s passing statistics — eight of 28 for 106 yards, one interception, two sacks — might look horrendous on paper. But Taggart said he never considered replacing him.
“I didn’t think it was Bobby,’’ Taggart said. “If I felt like it was Bobby, we probably would’ve done that. In the first half, Bobby was rushing a lot of things. I thought he was looking at the rush rather than looking down the field. We had guys open, but he was missing them because he was so concerned about the rush. We showed if we can protect for him, he can throw the football.’’
Eveld seemingly had a 26-yard touchdown pass on the game-winning drive to junior WR Stephen Bravo-Brown, but the ball was dropped.
“You got to be kidding me,’’ Taggart said. “Basically, that’s exactly what I thought. That wasn’t Bobby’s fault. We’re to the point now where we don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We just line back up and play. We get over the bad plays and respond.’’
UConn RB Lyle McCombs had 20 carries for 164 yards, the most against USF’s defense since Pittsburgh’s Ray Graham had 226 in 2011. McCombs had 10 carries for 135 yards in the first half, but went only 10 for 29 yards in the second half. … For the second time in school history, USF has registered consecutive games without scoring an offensive touchdown. But in 2010 (games against Syracuse and West Virginia), both games were defeats. … USF’s offense never reached the red zone, getting its deepest penetration to the UConn 26-yard line on the game-winning drive. … It was the seventh straight game in the USF-UConn series that was decided by a touchdown or less. … The Bulls had a season-low one turnover after committing 11 in the first four games. … Junior WR Andre Davis had a reception in his 24th consecutive game, adding to his school record. … Junior TE Mike McFarland had a blocked field goal for the second straight week. He also had a 20-yard reception for a career-high. … Senior DE Ryne Giddins moved into fifth place on USF’s career sack list with 17.5. … Senior MLB DeDe Lattimore had a game-high 11 tackles and moved into sixth place on USF’s career list. … Senior CB Fidel Montgomery had 10 tackles, one week after registering a team-high nine against Cincinnati.