TAMPA, Fla. - Regardless of Saturday's outcome on the field, playing South Florida was a good thing for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
USF paid UTC $435,000 to play the game. That's a good-sized chunk of the athletic department's proposed 2012-13 fiscal year budget of $11,940,188.36.
Playing the Bulls at Raymond James Stadium also was valuable because the Mocs recruit in Florida. Defensive coordinator Adam Fuller, who works the state, spends much of his time in and around Tampa and Orlando.
Fuller said he made sure to spread the word about the Mocs' trip to the Sunshine State.
"You mention it in the spring when you're talking to coaches," he said Thursday. "Even if you're over in Orlando, you're only [a 90-minute drive away], so they're familiar with USF.
"[Playing the Bulls] won't hurt. People will see the 'C' on TV."
The Mocs have four players from Florida on their roster: tight end Faysal Shafaat, defensive end Keyon Reed, running back Marquis Green and wide receiver Ron Moore. Green grew up about 45 minutes from Tampa, in Palmetto, and Saturday was extra special for the sophomore because he got to play close to home, in front of friends and family, on his 20th birthday.
"I found out about this game right after I signed, when I was a senior in high school, and these two years came fast," Green said Wednesday.
Shafaat, from Orlando, said at last count he had 38 friends and family members at the game.
"As soon as it was on the schedule, everybody started hitting me up and asking for tickets," he said.
For Reed, a redshirt sophomore like Shafaat, the game was the first time his parents, from Palm Bay, ever saw him play for the Mocs.
Shafaat led UTC with a career-high six catches for 45 yards. Green had four carries for 25 yards and an 8-yard catch.
Several Mocs made their collegiate debuts Saturday. Redshirt freshman quarterback Jacob Huesman was among the most effective. He was 3-for-4 passing in the first half for 43 yards, rushed 10 times for 18 yards and started the second half ahead of Terrell Robinson.
Redshirt freshman left guard Synjen Herren made his first start (but did not play in the second half), as did safety Sema'je Kendall. True freshman kicker Henrique Ribeiro began his first college game with a kickoff, adding a 46-yard field goal later, and true freshman wideout Tray James had two catches.
Little 'D' on Daniels
South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels had his way with UTC's defense for most of the game. By halftime the senior making career start No. 34 was 13-of-16 for 164 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.
He added a third touchdown pass in the third quarter, giving him 41 for his career, and scrambled for a win-sealing 20-yard touchdown with 9:52 to play.
"He was definitely tough to tackle," Mocs defensive end Davis Tull said. "He's a great player. He probably juked us out quite a bit tonight."
UTC's longest play was Huesman's 29-yard completion to running back J.J. Jackson. ... The Mocs' ground game often went backward. Overall UTC had 118 positive rushing yards and 69 negative, for a net 49 yards on 45 attempts. ... Nick Pollard made a 39-yard field goal, missed from 40 and averaged 40 yards on his nine punts.