TAMPA — It's an old-school strategy, but University of South Florida senior running back Marcus Shaw has taken it to heart. He carries a football everywhere, a tangible reminder to keep it secure.
He had it Saturday afternoon during the “Bulls Stampede'' when USF players and coaches arrived to enter Raymond James Stadium. And he had it at a news-conference podium after USF's 53-21 loss to McNeese State.
Shaw was electrifying with a career-high 145 yards on 12 carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run on the game's first play from scrimmage. But there was a negative — a lost fumble at USF's 7-yard line that McNeese State turned into a touchdown — the one thing he didn't want to happen.
“I keep thinking about the fumble,'' Shaw said softly. “It cost us a lot. It cost my teammates.''
USF's minus-19 turnover ratio was a big factor in last season's 3-9 record. First-year coach Willie Taggart has stressed avoiding mistakes. He still trusts Shaw, but wants everyone to become more cognizant of ball security.
“When you're responsible for that football, everybody's dreams go with you and their aspirations are in your hands,'' Taggart said. “I told Shaw, 'Not only do you hurt the offense, you hurt the defense, special teams, the fans, everyone. Everyone is counting on you to take care of that football.'
“Sometimes, coaches say (to treat the football like) a million dollars. You wouldn't let anybody get it then. That's how important it is for us. You keep stressing it. If it becomes a problem, then you make changes.''
Taggart, a former quarterback at Bradenton Manatee High and Western Kentucky University, didn't carry a football to his classes.
“No, I didn't put it on the ground much,'' Taggart said with a smile.
Courtney Draper's volleyball team (3-1) captured the USF Invitational, clinching the title by defeating Ball State in five games. USF's Erin Fairs, Jennica Mullins and Natalia Soares were named to the all-tournament team.
Denise Schilte-Brown's women's soccer team (2-0-2) capped its week by defeating Niagara 3-0, getting nine saves from goalkeeper Christiane Endler, who made the American Athletic Conference weekly honor roll. The Bulls play host to Middle Tennessee State on Friday night.
George Keifer's men's soccer team (1-0-1) collected its first win by defeating Stetson on Edwin Maolosi's penalty kick in the 81st minute. The Bulls travel to Michigan on Friday night, then play host to Wisconsin on Sept. 11.
USF announced 35,470 fans for Saturday night's opener against McNeese State. According to the Tampa Sports Authority, actual attendance was 22,609. …McNeese State's 53 points were the most scored by a Football Championship Subdivision team against an opponent from a BCS conference. ...Western Kentucky, Taggart's old team, defeated the Kentucky Wildcats 35-26, its second straight win against UK. Afterward, WKU coach Bobby Petrino said, “I watched last year's game. I liked how we matched up. Says a lot about Willie Taggart and how he built this program.'' …Saturday afternoon's trip to Michigan State is USF's second meeting with a Big Ten Conference team, joining a 2005 game against Penn State. But with Tuesday's home-and-home addition of Illinois in 2017 and 2018, the Bulls have 10 games against Big Ten opponents over the next six seasons.