The University of South Florida football team won its home opener on Saturday night. Nothing surprising there. USF is 16-0 all-time in those games, all against largely overmatched competition from the Football Championship Subdivision.
But one thing seemed particularly different in USF's 34-13 victory against the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs.
USF rushed for just 85 yards in 31 carries (2.7-yard average). And it needed a weaving 20-yard touchdown run from senior quarterback B.J. Daniels just to get there.
The Bulls never had plummeted below 100 yards rushing in a home opener, generally a favorable setting where USF backs ran wild (five games that surpassed the 200-yard mark).
"You'd like for the statistics to be a little more gaudy, a little more lopsided, but the main objective is to come out with a win,'' USF coach Skip Holtz said. "But no, it wasn't what I was looking for out of the running game.''
Injuries in the offensive line may have been a factor behind the subpar rushing and the pressure applied to Daniels, who was sacked twice.
First-string sophomore Darrell Williams, limited in practice last week, did not play and senior Damien Edwards took over at left tackle. Meanwhile, right tackle was mostly manned by redshirt freshman Max Lang, making his first college start, as last season's starter, Quinterrius Eatmon, also was returning from injury.
"I didn't think it was one of our better efforts as an offensive line,'' Holtz said. "There were times when the backs really lowered their shoulders and ran north and south. But there were times when we stopped and were dancing, trying to find the 40-yard run instead of finding the consistency and the 4-yard run.''
Senior Demetris Murray, who has consistently been singled out by Holtz as USF's best all-around runner, had 16 carries for 55 yards, including 18 on a first-quarter drive where he ran on all six plays and produced a 2-yard touchdown.
Overall, though, USF never effectively established the run.
"It's the first game, so there's going to be a lot of jitters and excitement to make you mess up on things we've done 100 times,'' Murray said. "We didn't want to be vanilla. We wanted to be wide open and showcase the pass, but I think it might swing back.''
It may have to on Saturday afternoon, when USF travels to Mountain West Conference opponent Nevada, which opened with a 31-24 victory at California.
Holtz said Murray, junior Marcus Shaw, junior Bradley Battles and redshirt freshman Willie Davis will figure into the backfield plans.
Senior Lindsey Lamar, who converted from wide receiver to running back and had been listed as USF's primary kickoff returner, is now expected to redshirt. Lamar has accounted for 2,449 career all-purpose yards, sixth on USF's all-time list.
"Lindsey is a weapon,'' Holtz said. "He's fast, he can run, but he's a little bit rusty right now at running back. He hasn't played there in two years. I don't think he's ready to be an every-down back. He can truly benefit from a redshirt year.
"I asked him what he would rather do, have the opportunity to put on more weight and feel more comfortable at running back, and he would rather do that, which I totally respect. Right now, I don't feel like I can give him all the reps with only one football and some of the weapons we have.''
Starting cornerback Kayvon Webster was USF's kickoff returner (three for 53 yards). Meanwhile, Holtz hasn't completely closed the door on Lamar for this season.
"An injury or two and the redshirt is coming off and he understands that,'' Holtz said. "Lindsey has an unbelievable attitude. He goes out to practice every day. He can get better (for 2013), but he's also an injury away.''