By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - Last year it was Notre Dame and this year it’s Chattanooga.
Ask the USF football team if one season opener is way different from another and you won’t get much of a response.
“I don’t know if there is ever an easy opener,” head coach Skip Holtz said at his first game week press conference of the season on Tuesday.
The Bulls went into last season’s debut as the underdogs on the road against a highly hyped Notre Dame team. They grabbed national attention by handing the No. 16 Irish a 23-20 loss at one of the most historic venues in college football.
This year’s opening opponent certainly has history – Chattanooga is in its 105th season of football – but the Mocs do play in the FCS Southern Conference. The level of play an opponent normally operates in, or the name of the school lining up against USF doesn’t mean much at all to the players, however, who are approaching this one just like a trip to Notre Dame.
“We’re not looking past anybody or down the road,” senior quarterback B.J. Daniels said. “… This is right now the most important game of my career and it’s the first one of my senior year.”
One thing to definitely keep in mind is that Saturday’s 7 p.m. game at Raymond James Stadium also will be the first for key names on the USF roster, especially on the offensive line, and an opening performance could go a long way in determining playing time as the season progresses.
“They’re all auditioning, so to speak, because that first game is like Christmas. You don’t know what you’re going to open up, even a guy that’s played,” offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said. “The first game some guys react positively, some react negatively the first time under the lights.”
Saturday’s opener will present USF with some surprises and it also will reveal what the Bulls will have to work on moving forward. One man that’s more than ready for whatever happens looked more like a kid on Christmas day as he talked about USF playing its first game that counts since Dec. 1, 2011.
“It can’t get here fast enough, I promise you,” Holtz said.
Bonani Could Make More History at Ray Jay
Maikon Bonani is one field goal – or three extra points – away from having his name atop all others in USF history when it comes to career scoring.
Bonani is just three points away from surpassing fellow kicker Santiago Gramatica (246 points from 2001-04) as the program’s top scorer of all time. Surprisingly enough, the mention of it was like breaking news to the Bulls’ senior specialist.
“First of all, thanks for telling me. I wasn’t aware of it,” Bonani told a reporter. “… It would be an honor most of all. Coming in as a freshman, it’s something you don’t really look forward to. Every game you just hope to help your team as much as you can.”
Bonani, a former Lake Wales High School star, already owns USF’s records for field goals made (51), extra points made in a single game (10 vs. FAMU in 2011), as well as single season and career field goal percentages (81.0, 75.0). All of that has been accomplished despite Bonani missing the entire 2009 season because of a back injury he suffered while working at Busch Gardens when he fell 35 feet from the Skyride.
“Every day is a blessing to be out there. I could have been sidelined forever. Doctors told me I could have been paralyzed or even dead,” he said.
Mike Steinke -- @TheNamesTaco
I can't wait to watch some @USFFootball this year !!!!
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