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Bulls Beat Elon After Early Struggles

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Bulls Beat Elon After Early Struggles

By Rick Brown

The Ledger

USF Running Back Ben Williams (Lake Wales) had 35 yards on 10 carries Saturday.

TAMPA | There has been a lot of talk about how tough the schedule is for the South Florida Bulls football team.

The Bulls have to face Auburn, North Carolina and West Virginia in the last three games in September.

But there was always a problem about that talk. No one mentioned USF's season-opening game against Elon.

For a half, Elon made USF sweat, conjuring up memories of South Florida's season-opening struggle in 2006 against McNeese State.

In the second half, USF's depth and talent took over.

Freshman running back Mike Ford scored two second-half touchdowns and quarterback Matt Grothe (Lake Gibson) tossed a touchdown to Amarri Jackson as South Florida ground out a tough 28-13 victory over the Elon Phoenix on Saturday. The game was played before 33,639 at Raymond James Stadium.

It was a struggle, but with the win, USF improved to 11-0 in home openers and won for the 18th-straight time against Football Championship Subdivision teams (formerly Division I-AA) since moving up to the Football Bowl Subdivision (I-A).

Ford, a transfer from Alabama, scored three touchdowns (one on a 1-yard pass from Grothe in the second quarter). He led the Bulls on the ground with 89 yards on six carries, 77 of those coming in the second half.

Grothe shook off some early drops by his receivers and his own overthrows to finish 23-of-39 for 238 yards and two touchdowns.

USF talked earlier in the week about not overlooking the Phoenix, who are from the Southern Conference. That is the same conference that made history earlier in the day when Appalachian State became the first FCS team (I-AA) to defeat a ranked FBS team, beating No. 5 Michigan, 34-32.

The Bulls appeared a step off in the first half against the Phoenix. Dropped passes by the receivers and overthrows by Grothe stalled drives and allowed Elon to stay with the Bulls.

Elon trailed just 7-3 at the half but could have had more points, missing a 45-yard field goal and throwing an interception at the 4-yard line after having first and 10 from the USF 12.

The missed opportunities would prove costly for the Phoenix.

Ford got his second touchdown of the game on a 21-yard sweep in the third quarter, showing his speed in getting to the outside.

In the fourth, Ford showed his power, barreling through three defenders on his way to a 48-yard run. He would score his third touchdown on the evening with a 1-yard run two plays later to make it 28-6.

Elon got a late 26-yard touchdown pass from Scott Riddle to Terrell Hudgins.

Running back Ben Williams (Lake Wales) started the game and rushed for 35 yards on 10 carries. He also caught two passes for 20 yards.

Alabama transfer freshman Jamar Taylor (Lakeland) entered the game late in the first quarter. He caught his first collegiate reception with 3:44 in the third period, taking a swing pass, breaking a tackle and gaining 10 yards. On the next play, he got his first collegiate carry, getting tripped up for a yard loss. He finished with three carries for four yards. He also played on special teams.ELON 0 3 3 7 - 13USF 0 7 14 7 - 28Scoring Summary:2nd Quarter12:40 USF - FORD, Mike 1 yd pass from GROTHE, Matt (ALVARADO, Delbe kick)10:21 ELON - Andrew Wilcox 37 yd field goal3rd quarter 10:35 USF - FORD, Mike 21 yd run (ALVARADO, Delbe kick)04:37 ELON - Andrew Wilcox 37 yd field goal03:04 USF - JACKSON, Amari 24 yd pass from GROTHE, Matt (ALVARADO, Delbe kick)4th Quarter07:22 USF - FORD, Mike 1 yd run (ALVARADO, Delbe kick)03:22 ELON - Terrell Hudgins 26 yd pass from Scott Riddle (Andrew Wilcox kick)[ Rick Brown may be reached at rick.brown@theledger.com or 863-802-7569. ]

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