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Punt block keys Bulls 1st TD of the season

By Times staff writers
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 30, 2002

TAMPA -- South Florida junior defensive end Shurron Pierson set the tone early Thursday against Florida Atlantic with a common Bulls weapon: the punt block.

USF forced a FAU punt on the game's first series, and Pierson charged in from right end, stuck out his left hand and stuffed Andy Rosas' kick. For good measure, Pierson fell on it at the FAU 30. Six plays later, a 4-yard run by Clenton Crossley put USF ahead 7-0.

It was the 15th block in the program's 56 games, including at least one in each season.

FRESH START: Offseason knee surgery appears to have agreed with kicker Santiago Gramatica. After struggling as a freshman, making just 3 of 11 field goals and 44 of 52 extra points, Gramatica is off to a good start in 2002. His 34-yard field goal in the first quarter was a career long, besting a 33-yarder last season against Houston.

On the final play of the first half, Gramatica kicked a 35-yarder for a personal best and a 20-3 Bulls lead. He also made both first-half extra points.

NEWCOMERS: A few Bulls earned their first career starts: sophomore right guard Mark Sopcik of Land O'Lakes, redshirt freshman left guard Shelly Houston, junior receiver Elgin Hicks and redshirt freshman cornerback D'Juan Brown.

ERRORS: Sophomore long-snapper Justin Daniel had two high snaps in the second quarter, the first going over punter Devin Sanderson's head and leading to an Owls score. In the first half USF collected six penalties for 50 yards. A chop block and a late hit on FAU quarterback Jared Allen were among the miscues.

SWARMING: Bulls defenders harassed Allen and backup Garrett Jahn throughout the first half, collecting four sacks. Junior linebacker Maurice Jones had two, half of his sack total from last season.

ON THE MARK: Bulls quarterback Marquel Blackwell was 19-for-25 in the first half. Sophomore Tim Jones had the longest reception, 23 yards off a little flip in the first quarter.

BITS: Senior defensive back Maurice Tucker did not play because of a sore ankle. The Indiana transfer started 10 of 11 games last season as the team's top cornerback. Junior wideout Huey Whittaker, the leading receiver last season with 52 catches, did not play because of a sprained knee. He is expected to return next week against Northern Illinois.

Receiver DeAndrew Rubin (hamstring) played.

-- PETE YOUNG, JOHN SCHWARB

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