TAMPA – The term running with the Bulls couldn't have been any more appropriate than it was at Raymond James as the University of South Florida football team returned to action following its bye week and handed Western Kentucky a 24-12 loss in front of 40,276 USF faithful.
The Bulls got touchdown runs from Mo Plancher, Richard Kelly and B.J. Daniels as USF ran for 226 yards on 44 carries on the evening, highlighted by a 115-yard performance from Demetris Murray.
WKU took the opening kickoff from its own 30-yard line and drove the ball 45 yards to the Bulls' 30-yard line using 7:28 of the clock only to have a 46-yard field goal attempt by Casey Tinius go wide right.
After back-to-back three-and-outs by USF and then the Hilltoppers, the Bulls looked like they would get their chance to get on the board. USF got a 27-yard punt return from Terrence Mitchell, bringing the ball to the WKU 28-yard line.
Daniels would collect 15 yards on the first play of the drive getting to the Hilltoppers' 13-yard line. A sack forced the Bulls back to the 21-yard line and after a Plancher five-yard gain and a Daniels' 12-yard scamper fell just short of the first down, kicker Eric Schwartz would look to give the Bulls a three-point advantage. However, like his WKU counterpart, Schwartz would put his attempt wide right.
Tinius would get another chance to redeem himself after the USF defense held on a third down, but he put another attempt wide right.
On the next series, Plancher would finally break through and give the Bulls the advantage with a 13-yard TD scamper with 5:09 left in the half, capping a five-play, 79-yard drive. Murray gave the Bulls a boost on the drive with a 39-yard run that ended with a facemask penalty, giving USF another 15 yards and a first down at the WKU 24.
After Tinius missed his third field goal of the first half with 40 seconds left, the Bulls took a 7-0 lead into the locker room at the intermission.
USF would come out in the second half and look to extend the gap. Kelly took a Daniels handoff and rumbled two yards into the end zone to give the Bulls a two-touchdown lead, capping an 11-play, 82-yard drive that ate up 6:27 on the clock.
After the Bulls defense held on the ensuing drive, Mitchell would strike again in the return game, taking the punt 67 yards to the WKU 13 yardline. Daniels would cap the drive with a one-yard run with 1:50 left in the third, making it 21-0.
WKU would finally get on the board with 11:28 left in the contest when Quinterrence Cooper caught a five-yard pass from Bobby Rainey.
After a Maikon Bonani 33-yard field goal, WKU would close the gap when Jack Doyle took a 25-yard pass from Jakes and found the end zone with 3:46 left in the game. But, it was too late and the Bulls notched the 24-12 victory.
Murray finished with 115 yards on 15 carries (7.7 ypc) to register the first 100-yard game of his career. His backfield mate, Plancher, would finish the game with 79 yards on 17 carries, while Daniels posted 30 rushing yards. USF would only attempt 11 passes, completing seven, with Evan Landi accounting for two of the Bulls' seven catches on the night. The USF defense also stifled the Hilltoppers' running game, which came into the contest averaging 170 yards per game in their first three games against Nebraska, Kentucky and Indiana.
On the night, WKU logged just 88 yards on 31 carries for an average of 2.8 yards per carry. Bobby Rainey, the Hilltoppers' top rushing threat, who came into the outing rushing at a 148-yards-per-game clip with five touchdowns this year, was held to just 64 yards on 21 carries and didn't find his way into the end zone.
Sam Barrington led the defense with six tackles, while DeDe Lattimore, Mike Lanaris and Jacquain Williams chipped in five stops. Lanaris also had two TFL with Williams adding a TFL of his own. Jon Lejiste was also active, finishing with three tackles, a sack and forced fumble and a PBU.
The Bulls will return to Raymond James Stadium on Oct. 2 at 7:05 p.m. when they face Florida Atlantic.