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Bulls gain ground on the ground

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

DENTON, Texas -- The South Florida rushing attack showed vast improvement over the first four games in Saturday's 24-17 win at North Texas.

USF, which frequently employed two backs instead of its customary one, rushed for a season-high 161 yards on 44 attempts. Its previous best was 116 yards against Northern Illinois.

Vince Brewer and Quinton Callum, who had a combined 21 carries for 75 yards in the first four games, combined for 24 carries for 91 yards. Clenton Crossley provided punch off the bench with 51 yards on eight carries.

RARE MISS: Santiago Gramatica could have put the game away with a 32-yard field goal in the final minutes, but the kick was wide. It was Gramatica's second miss of the season. He is 5-of-7 on field goals, and 16-of-16 on extra points. North Texas remained within seven points, 24-17, setting up ...

WHEW!: On the final Mean Green possession, USF cornerback D'Juan Brown bit on a pump-and-go, and Ja'Mel Branch, who had scored the previous North Texas touchdown, almost went the distance for the tying score. His momentum, however, carried him out of bounds, barely, after making the 35-yard catch at the USF 44. Three plays later, Brown made amends with the game-sealing interception with a minute left.

PLAYMAKER: Junior safety Kevin Verpaele twice intercepted North Texas' Andrew Smith in the fourth quarter.

"He is a warrior," coach Jim Leavitt said. "He played a super game. Those two interceptions were huge."

OUT FOR NOW: Leavitt said Sunday he did not know the severity of the ankle injury to defensive tackle Greg Walls. Walls, second on the team with nine tackles for loss coming in, was replaced by Matt Groelinger late in the game.

HOW WAS IT CLOSE?: North Texas committed five turnovers to USF's two, it had four turnovers in the fourth and was outgained 432-198. So, how was the Mean Green in the game?

UNT used superb field position to get its first 10 points, then took advantage of back-to-back personal foul calls against the Bulls to trim it to 24-17 midway through the fourth.

PENALTY PLAGUE: USF players and coaches are exasperated by the excessive penalties. The Bulls had 17 for 137 yards Saturday and for the season have 63 for 500 yards, an average of 12.6 for 100 yards. Opponents have 34 for 269, an average of about seven for 54 yards.

GETTING BETTER: The defense, except for some stupid penalties, was sensational. The Bulls held the Mean Green under 200 yards (198), USF's second-best of the season (142 against Florida Atlantic). The Mean Green averaged 3.1 yards a play.

HE'S BACK: Chris Iskra, who didn't start the past two games and had five catches for 41 yards coming in, started and had four receptions for 63 yards, including possibly the biggest play of the game, a 44-yard touchdown reception early in the fourth that put USF ahead 17-10.

BIG SHOT: The Dallas Morning News rated USF receiver-returner DeAndrew Rubin the seventh-best special teams draft prospect and the No. 2 return specialist behind Mississippi's Jason Armstead. North Carolina State safety Terrence Holt, who has 10 career kick blocks, was rated No. 1 as a kick blocker. Rubin has 13 punt returns for 194 yards (14.9 average) this season.

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