TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Maryland's defense welcomes the challenge of trying to slow down the nation's leading rusher.
South Florida's Marlon Mack burst onto the scene a week away, running for 275 yards and four touchdowns in his college debut. The true freshman may not have claimed USF's starting tailback job, however he certainly grabbed the attention of this week's opponent.
Maryland coach Randy Edsall describes the 6-foot, 195-pound Mack as ''shifty, quick and fast.'' Containing him figures to one of the keys to Saturday's game between the Terrapins (1-0) and Bulls (1-0).
''He broke two 60-yard runs last week. He has good vision, good patience getting to the hole and then good vision to see things,'' Edsall said. ''We'll have to tackle well, get to the gaps, run to the ball, and when we run to the ball, we're going to have to take good angles.''
Mack averaged nearly 12 yards per carry and matched USF's single-game rushing record while scoring on runs of 62, 60, 56 and 3 yards in a 36-31 victory over Western Carolina.
The Bulls went 2-10 a year ago in their first season under coach Willie Taggart. And even though Western Carolina is a Football Championship Subdivision program, rallying from an early 14-3 deficit represented progress for a team with a track record of wilting when it encounters adversity.
''He gave us confidence and belief,'' Taggart said. ''He not only helped the offense, he helped the entire football team the way he ran the ball.''
And to think, the only reason Mack started the opener was because another young running back, sophomore Darius Tice, tweaked his knee in practice.
The Bulls depth chart still list Tice as the starter, and Taggart stressed he has no intentions of abandoning a plan to spread the rushing load among several runners.
''We're not going to waiver on that,'' the coach said. ''It's still going to be by committee.''
''I think he is a little bit of everything. He's a nice sized kid. ... He's got good acceleration. He's got good short area quickness,'' Terrapins defensive coordinator Brian Stewart said. ''He has some power to him because he is a little bit of a thicker kid. I'm looking forward to watching him play after we play.''
Things to watch in the first-ever meeting between the Bulls and Terrapins:
AIR IT OUT?: Maryland's C.J. Brown threw for just 111 yards and one touchdown in a season-opening rout of James Madison. But then again, the Terrapins rushed for 285 yards, so they didn't need more production for the passing game. USF, meanwhile, surrendered 374 yards passing against Western Carolina, which raises the question of whether Brown will try to attack the Bulls secondary, too. Edsall hasn't provided any clues. ''I think South Florida defensively is a team that has good athletes. They have guys who can run, so we've looked at them and dissected them and are going to put together a game plan that we think fits what we do compared to what we see on film,'' the coach said.''
WE WANT TO THROW IT BETTER, TOO: USF's Mike White got off a shaky start and finished 9 of 26 for 181 yards, no TDs and one interception last week. If they Bulls are going to be successful moving forward, he's needs to be much more accurate.
NEXT MAN UP: With Maryland receiver Taivon Jacobs out after suffering a season-ending injury last week, Marcus Leaks moves into the starting lineup for the Terrapins. He had two receptions for 17 yards in the opener. Two years ago, he averaged 17.1 yards per catch.
OFFENSIVELY CHALLENGED: It's only one game, but getting four touchdowns from Mack was a really big deal for USF. The Bulls scored a Football Bowl Subdivision-low 11 offensive TDs all of last season.
NEWCOMERS: USF had the top-ranked recruiting class in the American Athletic Conference this year. The Bulls had 17 players - five of them true freshman - make their debut against Western Carolina.