By Jim Lighthall

And a little child shall lead them.

Just when you thought the 2014 USF football team was going to be just like the 2013 edition, true freshman running back Marlon Mack emerged. In his first college game, he rescued the offense from the depths of a 14-3 deficit and proceeded to carry the Bulls to an Opening Night win over Western Carolina 36-31. Not bad for a guy that wasn’t even supposed to start on Saturday. Darius Tice had won the job in camp, but tweaked a knee the week of the first game. Isn’t that the way these fairy tale stories always seem to start?

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Saturday’s game was delayed 69-minutes due to bad weather. Not that that was a big deal, since the Bulls had to wait to land Mack in the first place. As a four-star recruit from Sarasota Booker High School, Mack was being pulled in many different directions. After originally falling in love with UCLA, and then Louisville, Mack finally made his pledge for USF in late January. We shouldn’t have been surprised considering Mack’s high school coach was former Bulls’ defensive back Johnnie Jones.

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Willie Taggart said after Saturday’s win that he thought Mack could have been an All-American – at defensive back. Its not too far-fetched really. Despite Mack’s offensive resume of 1,527 yards and 19 touchdowns as a prep senior, he was also named the Herald Tribune’s Defensive Player of the Year with 110 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and four interceptions. But it looks like the USF staff made the right choice to have him carrying the ball instead of trying to stop it.

We’ve seen some promising USF backs get off to solid starts through the years, only to see them fizzle: Darrell Scott, Mike Ford, Jamar Taylor, Ricky Ponton and Chad Simpson just to name a few. And Marlon Mack might never again be as good as he was in his first game … a school-record tying 275-yards to go along with a school-record tying four touchdowns, but for at least one night he gave Bulls fans something to cheer about. You see, USF’s offense scored a total of 11 touchdowns in 2013, including just four on the ground.

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I don’t know where Marlon Mack is going to be three years from now. Heck, I don’t even know where Marlon Mack is going to be three games from now. But I’m going to enjoy him while I can. He’s dynamic. He’s electric. And he’s a game-changer. And those are things the USF offense hasn’t seen for a while.