By Evan Winkofsky
The University of South Florida kicked off their 18th season of football on Saturday with a with a 36-31 victory against the Western Carolina Catamounts in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Freshman running back Marlon Mack set or tied multiple team records in the victory. Mack set a new single game rushing record for a first year player and tied the single game rushing record. The Freshman finished the game against WCU rushing for 275 yards on 24 attempts and tied a school record with 4 rushing touchdowns. Sophomore Quarterback Mike White couldn’t contain his excitement for Mack after the game. “It was awesome! He showed everyone what the team knew he could do since camp. It couldn’t happen to a better kid,” he said.
Mack displayed vision and an unmatched burst ripping off a 56-yard and two 60-plus yard touchdown runs. Head Coach Willie Taggart told the team before the game that some people show up in the spotlight and some people run away. “That was a show,” he said. “The spotlight came and (Mack) showed up and showed out."
WCU made it interesting late in the 4th quarter when Junior quarterback Troy Mitchell connected with Sophomore wide receiver Spearmen Robinson for a touchdown. The score brought Western Carolina within six points, 30-24, but once again Mack increased the lead this time adding his record tying 4th touchdown rush.
WCU added a last second touchdown but was unable to recover the onside kick.
The Catamounts jumped out to an early 14-3 first quarter lead behind the surgical passing attack of Mitchell. In the first 15 minutes of play Mitchell connected on 13 of 18 passes for 134 yards and added a 4 yard touchdown scamper.
Both teams went back and forth before halftime as Mack rushed the Bulls right back into the game on a 62 yard touchdown run to cut into the lead 14-13. WCU stretched their lead to 17-13 with a 33-yard field goal from Senior Richard Sigmon before an 8 play 52 yard drive finished off by a 26 yard field goal from USF Senior Marvin Kloss.
In the second half the USF offense came alive behind the rushing attack of Marlon Mack. Mack set the Freshman rushing record on a 6 yard rush to USF 44 in the closing minutes of the 3rd quarter.
Coach Taggart understands that this is just one win but it is important. “It’s big for us going forward,” he said. "Now we got to enjoy this tonight and then get ready for Maryland."
The Bulls return to action Saturday September 6th against Big Ten newcomer the Maryland Terrapins.