Saturday’s game between FAMU and the University of South Florida will be a night of firsts.
It will be the first football meeting for the two schools, the first time the Rattlers have played in Tampa since the Florida Classic moved to Orlando in xxx and the first time Rattler running backs coach Renato Diaz will coach against his alma matter. And for the winner, the victory will be the first of the season.
“I would not feel any extra satisfaction from beating an old team I worked with or my alma matter. It’s a separate issue and you have to deal with them as such,” said Diaz, who also coached at South Florida for four seasons.
Both USF and FAMU are coming off of losses in their season openers. The Bulls lost to Pennsylvania State 23-13 in Happy Valley and the Rattlers lost a 21-17 nail-biter to Delaware State.
Under the direction of first-year head coach Rubin Carter, the Rattlers are still working through the kinks and cobwebs while building trust with a coach who inherited the team midway through the summer.
Bulls head coach Jim Leavitt does not have such a dilemma. He has been with the program from its infancy in 1997.
In his nine years at the school, he has compiled a 55-34 record. At home, Leavitt and the Bulls are even more impressive, compiling a 31-6 record since the beginning of the 1998 season. Some of the Rattler kinks can be found in the armor of the offensive line. None of which mattered to Leavitt.
“They have a big offensive line. It’s probably the biggest we will face all year,” said Leavitt to USF’s athletic website www.gousfbulls.com.
As big as the Rattler protection is, it must be able to protect Chris Owens. Allowing seven sacks to a unit Leavitt calls “the key to our defense,” will not help the learning process of the freshman quarterback it is protecting. Owens will be starting in his first collegiate game Saturday, after coming off the bench in the Rattlers loss against Delaware State.
“I feel more comfortable. We learned a lot from the first game. I still have a lot to learn…it’s a long season,” Owens said.
Like FAMU, the Bulls played a pair of quarterbacks in their opener. Pat Julmiste replaced first-year starter Courtney Benson in the early stages of the Bulls opener. Julmiste passed for 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Nittany Lions, after passing for 1570 yards and an unspectacular seven touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2004.
“Pat is our starter right now, that’s as far as I go with that right now. We’re trying to get our offense to do some things and give Pat a chance. He played better than the limited time Courtney was in there,” Leavitt said.
Julmiste will have a chance to be successful as long as he can depend on sophomore Johnny Peyton catching passes. Against Penn State, Julmiste and the
6-foot-5-inch Peyton hooked up for 39 yards and two touchdowns on only four receptions.
Saturday’s match-up will be the first of three games against opponents from Florida for the Bulls. Central Florida will travel to Raymond James Stadium September
17 and the Bulls will travel to Coral Gables to play the University of Miami October 1.
Similar to what FAMU students did at the Rattlers home opener. “USF student athletes will be at all entrances to Raymond James Stadium collecting cash donations, bottled water, non-perishable food,” along with a myriad of other things to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina.
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