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Domination with balance

Offense, defense run smoothly as Team Florida wins Gridiron Classic.

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2002


ORLANDO -- About the only thing Chad Hayes and Mel Mitchell III had in common before the Gridiron Classic was that no one had heard of them.

ORLANDO -- About the only thing Chad Hayes and Mel Mitchell III had in common before the Gridiron Classic was that no one had heard of them.

Now both have this: Their days of obscurity may be over.

Hayes, a 6-foot-7, 255-pound tight end from Maine, and Mitchell, a safety from Western Kentucky, were the stars Saturday in Team Florida's 42-13 defeat of Team USA before 20,344 at the Florida Citrus Bowl. Hayes, a native of Eddington, Maine, and late addition to Team Florida, caught four passes, three for touchdowns. Mitchell, who grew up in Rockledge, had two interceptions and a forced fumble to earn MVP.

"I knew I had the capabilities," Mitchell said.

Georgia Tech quarterback and Jesuit graduate George Godsey passed for 129 yards and a classic-record three touchdowns. Florida running back Robert Gillespie, who had a strong week of practice, rushed for a classic-best 72 yards on 15 carries, and Florida State fullback William McCray scored twice.

Defensively, South Florida linebacker Anthony Williams had a team-high seven tackles to lead a unit that held Team USA scoreless in the second half.

"I told my guys in the middle of the first quarter, "Team USA has some real talent. They're flashing here and flashing there,' " coach Lindy Infante said. "I was concerned whether we could keep up with them, then we came back."

Team USA had first-half leads of 3-0 and 10-7 before Godsey's first touchdown pass, an 8-yarder to Hayes, put Team Florida ahead 14-10 with 1:16 left in the second. Hayes also scored in the first on a 10-yard pass from Alabama's Andrew Zow, Team Florida's starting quarterback, and a 25-yard strike from Godsey in the fourth for a 35-13 lead.

"It was a great experience to come down here," Hayes said.

Team Florida also had touchdowns from McCray, a 7-yard pass from Godsey and a 3-yard run. Florida State tight end Carver Donaldson scored on a 1-yard touchdown catch from Zow.

"I wasn't surprised with Team Florida's play as much as I was disappointed with our performance," coach Barry Switzer said.

Team Florida's defense gave up significant yardage (337) and first downs (20) but not many big plays and only three scoring drives. Mitchell's interceptions came on passes thrown by Northwestern quarterback Zak Kustok, one at the Team Florida 13 and the other at the 4.

"The QB was telegraphing the majority of his passes when I was out there," Mitchell said.

Mitchell also was the special-teams star.

With Team Florida ahead 21-13, he forced a fumble on a kickoff return, which gave his team the ball at the 1.

"I'm just excited to back in Florida," Mitchell said.

SENIOR BOWL: LSU's Rohan Davey and Tulane's Patrick Ramsey upstaged the more high-profile passers to lead the South to a 41-26 victory over the North in Mobile, Ala. Davey threw a pair of touchdowns and Ramsey led three second-half scoring drives for the South's fourth win in five years.

The South did not need a big day from Fresno State's David Carr, considered the best quarterback prospect in the upcoming NFL draft. Carr was 2-for-6 for 28 yards and sat out the second half.

Indiana's Antwaan Randle El, voted MVP, caught a pair of 3-yard touchdowns from Illinois' Kurt Kittner and had a 40-yard punt return. The North had five turnovers, leading to 24 points.

The South's defensive MVP was Florida's Andra Davis, who intercepted Kittner's pass on the first play to set up a 51-yard field goal by college teammate Jeff Chandler. Ramsey was the team's offensive MVP. Brigham Young's Ryan Denney and Michigan receiver Marquise Walker were the North's MVPs.

CATAWBA COLLEGE: Darris Morris was shot to death Friday after an argument between students from Catawba and Livingstone, Salisbury (N.C.) police said. Four other students, two from Livingstone and two from Catawba, were wounded in what became a shootout with Catawba security officers. Morris, 21, was a two-time All-South Atlantic Conference linebacker. Six students from Livingstone have been charged with murder in his death.

-- Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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