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Spirited, tough play marks USF scrimmage

By PETE YOUNG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 7, 2002

TAMPA -- A couple of things were confirmed Saturday during South Florida's second scrimmage of the spring:

1) The defense isn't that far ahead of the offense, and 2) there's no love lost between the two units.

Quarterback Marquel Blackwell and the first-string offense performed much better than the previous Saturday, and the smoldering intensity level caused a few skirmishes.

The most notable came near the end of the two-hour, 106-play scrimmage, when star linebacker Kawika Mitchell unleashed his right foot into the face mask of tight end Tim Jones and was ejected.

Except for the few instances when players lost composure, coach Jim Leavitt was pleased.

"It was much better this week. What I saw today was very positive," Leavitt said. "When the (first string was) against the (first string), it was a lot sharper. I saw a lot of focus, a lot of serious demeanor, a lot of guys ready to play. We'll have a lot of good film."

Blackwell completed 11 of 25 passes for 152 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception, by cornerback Ron Hemingway.

The offense scored seven touchdowns, with two coming on possessions started in its territory, five when working with a short field.

The first-string defense forced punts on the first two series, then Blackwell marched the offense to a score, culminating in Bruce Gipson's end-zone recovery of DeJuan Green's fumble.

The offensive highlights were a 25-yard pass to Gipson on third and 17, a 37-yarder to Hugh Smith and 52-yard touchdown to Pasco graduate Joe Bain, who caught a 15-yard curl and outraced the secondary.

While the extremely young starting offensive line -- no seniors or juniors and new starters Levi Newton (right tackle), Chris Carothers (right guard) and Shelly Houston (left guard) -- played better, defensive linemen Shurron Pierson, Chris Daley and Greg Walls consistently applied pressure.

Defensive highlights included back-to-back sacks by Mitchell and one by freshman linebacker Terrence Royal.

Backup quarterbacks Ronnie Banks (8-for-14, 51 yards) and David Mullins (3-for-4, 25 yards), who are competing for the No. 2 spot, each had a touchdown -- Banks a 5-yarder to tight end Mark Feldman and Mullins a 10-yarder to Marcus Edwards.

Vince Brewer led all rushers with 13 carries for 54 yards, including a 3-yard score, and Green had eight carries for 26 yards and a 3-yard score. Brian Fisher had a 6-yard touchdown run.

Among those who didn't participate because of to minor injuries were Chris Iskra, Huey Whittaker, J.R. Reed, Quinton Callum and Tavares Jurineack.

The spring game is at 1 p.m. Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.

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