The University of South Florida inched closer to its first bowl eligible season with head coach Willie Taggart on Saturday following its 22-17 win over East Carolina at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, North Carolina.
And Taggart, a heavy Southwest Florida recruiter since his hire in 2012, has done so by leaning on a handful of local Lee and Collier county talents during the Bulls drive back toward respectability, including the likes of Immokalee grads D’Ernest Johnson and Deadrin Senat and Dunbar grad Ryeshene Bronson.
The Bulls moved to 5-4 with the win and 3-2 in the American Athletic Conference, where they stand second in the eastern division. The programs five wins are the most since 2010, when it went 8-5 overall.
“We’re playing in November, playing for something that’s really big,” Taggart told USF senior writer Tom Zebold following his team’s win over East Carolina. “I’m really proud of these guys and I’m glad we get to come back home in front of our fans.”
In the Bulls must-win victory over the Pirates, it was Senat’s turn to log an important performance.
Senat, a 6-foot-1, 305-pound sophomore defensive tackle, contributed five tackles and forced a fumble.
His play has been stellar in just his second season with the Bulls. He currently ranks fifth within the program with 40 tackles and also has five-and-a-half tackles for a loss.
USF has games remaining against conference-leading Temple (8-1), Cincinnati (5-4) and the University of Central Florida (0-10). A win against just one opponent would make the Bulls bowl eligible for the first time under Taggart.
Tar Heels stomp Blue Devils
It was a game pitting University of North Carolina cornerback and Lehigh grad Malik Simmons against Duke wide receiver and Dunbar grad Johnell Barnes.
While Barnes had a good day catching the football for the Blue Devils, pulling in five receptions for 51 yards, it was Simmons’ Tar Heels who surged ahead for a 66-31 win in Chapel Hill, moving to 8-1 on the season, and more importantly 5-0 in the Coastal division.
Simmons had three tackles and one pass breakup in the win. In seven games since his two-game suspension, Simmons has amassed 11 tackles, six passes defended, four breakups and two interceptions.
Tigers pounce on Seminoles
When South Fort Myers grad Jayron Kearse and Immokalee grad Mackensie Alexander signed with Clemson following spectacular high school football careers, they likely were hoping for the feeling they’re experiencing right now.
The No. 1 Clemson Tigers defeated No. 15 Florida State 23-13 on Saturday before 83,000 fans at Memorial Stadium.
Kearse, a junior safety, logged five tackles while Alexander, a redshirt sophomore, had three in the victory. The Tigers are undefeated at 9-0 and are a perfect 6-0 in the ACC.
Meant contributes in loss
Kentucky sophomore and Ida Baker graduate Regie Meant wrapped up four tackles in a 27-3 loss to Georgia on Saturday.
The 6-foot-4, 302-pound defensive tackle has 22 tackles and one sack on the season for the Wildcats.
Dixon produces for Golden Flashes
It was more of the same from South Fort Myers grad and Kent State true freshman Antwan Dixon on Thursday in the Golden Flashes’ 18-17 loss to Buffalo at Kent Stadium.
Dixon led the team with six catches for 72 yards receiving. He also had one rush for five yards.