TAMPA — With starting RB Marcus Shaw sidelined by a hamstring injury, the University of South Florida coaching staff expected to use three running backs against Connecticut last weekend: junior Michael Pierre, sophomore Willie Davis and freshman Darius Tice.
Pierre got the start, but it was the two younger backs that carried the majority of the load.
Tice carried the ball 11 times for 69 yards, while Davis added another 38 yards on eight carries.
Tice, from high school powerhouse Miami Northwestern, came into the game with just 7 yards this season. Davis hadn’t yet played an offensive snap this season, limited solely to special teams.
Davis made the play of the game, seemingly carrying the entire Connecticut defense on a third-down, 16-yard run in the second quarter from USF’s 3-yard line.
“I’ve watched it a couple of times,” Davis said. “I think about determination and just doing it for the team. We were backed up on our own goal line and the team needed me. … I was quite hungry to get in, and I produced when I got in. That’s what (coaches) ask for, that’s what we needed, so I did it. I’m hungry.”
Davis showed patience in waiting for his turn to play this season and it paid off, for him and his team.
“Willie has decided to mature and grow up a little bit,” USF offensive coordinator Walt Wells said. “He got a role on special teams and did well. He got on the scout team and was really leading those young guys and teaching them how to practice. We notice that.”
Tice played a key role on the drive that ended with USF’s game-winning field goal, picking up 32 of the 65 yards the Bulls gained on that drive.
O-LINE SHAKEUP: Guard has been the weakest point of USF’s offensive line this season, according to Wells, who also serves as offensive line coach. “We need to sew up our protection inside,” Wells said. “Our guards have got to do a better job of protecting.” T Cameron Ruff (Jesuit HS) has moved inside to guard to provide depth there.