Fake punt energizes Bulls

Senior linebacker Sam Miller runs 29 yards, giving a slow-starting offense an early boost.

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published November 25, 2007

PITTSBURGH - The play was on. Then it was off. Then senior Sam Miller saw enough of an opportunity to go for a fake punt that jump-started USF's 48-37 win Saturday.

"Once I saw the call, I was going with it," said the senior linebacker, who took a direct snap from Eric Setser and ran untouched for 29 yards, setting up the Bulls' first touchdown.

"The guys were joking with me that I didn't make a move on the guy," said Miller, who injured his left shoulder getting tackled and watched the rest of the game from the sidelines. "I was too excited. It's not every game you get the ball."

His run got the Bulls excited, too. Before the fake, they had totaled 16 yards in 11 plays and trailed 7-0, facing fourth and 8 from the Pittsburgh 46 in the first quarter.

"We worked on it all week, practiced it, and we really felt like it would be there," coach Jim Leavitt said. "Sam ran the ball, got the first and it worked out pretty good."

Two plays after Miller's run to the 17-yard line, the Bulls tied it on Mike Ford's touchdown, the first points in a key road win.

"It helped a lot," quarterback Matt Grothe said. "I'm sitting on the bench, trying to get warm, and all of the sudden, I'm running back on the field, and we scored two plays later."

USF hadn't faked a punt this year, but the Bulls converted two in last year's 22-12 win over Pittsburgh, with punter Justin Teachey running for 25 total yards.

Miller hadn't had a carry since his running back days at South Sumter High. A reserve who has played primarily special teams, he has seven tackles this season after getting four in each of his first three seasons. So the chance to execute a fake was something he waited four years to do.

"Usually in practice, we run fakes and most of the guys are like 'We're not going to run it,'" said Miller, who will graduate in May with a degree in criminology. "The guys out in front of me were shocked I called it."

Leavitt said the same opening was there after the fake, but he was playing it safe.

"We could have run it two or three times after that. It was still there," Leavitt said. "The guys were probably mad at me because it was still there. On fourth and 1 on our own 20, we probably could have gotten it, but if it's a bad snap or a fumbled ball on your own 20 ... I don't know if you want to go to the well that many times."