© St. Petersburg Times, published October 21, 2002
GREENVILLE, N.C.- South Florida joins East Carolina in Conference USA next season, and the Pirates must be grateful the Bulls won't have Marquel Blackwell anymore.
Blackwell, a senior quarterback, made few mistakes Saturday in a 46-30 win at ECU. His numbers attest to it: 19-of-33, 321 yards, 5 touchdowns, no interceptions.
Such impressive figures speak for themselves, but the essence of Blackwell, who has 27 wins at USF (5-2), was revealed at a critical juncture after ECU (2-4) went ahead 17-15 early in the second half.
Under pressure in the pocket, Blackwell juked and darted, doing whatever necessary to shake a defensive lineman. When he finally bought a few seconds, he had the composure to look downfield.
DeAndrew Rubin was streaking down the middle, and Blackwell launched a perfect strike for a 54-yard score. It was a great throw, but it was getting in position to make the pass that was special.
USF coach Jim Leavitt, who usually is reserved with individual compliments, called Blackwell "the story of the day."
Blackwell and Rubin, St. Petersburg natives who have played together since grade school, have near telepathic communication, and it was their school-record 14th touchdown connection. Rubin saw Blackwell in trouble, but knew Blackwell never panics. So he broke deep, and the Bulls broke some of ECU's spirit.
"In the second half, when we took the lead, (USF) came back with an explosion play on a scramble, and that's tough to deal with," ECU coach Steve Logan said. "They answered all of our scores and that was to their credit.
USF's big plays, combined with four ECU turnovers (USF had none), helped the Bulls overcome a 510-410 yardage deficit and another spate of penalties. USF, which entered with a national-worst 73 penalties, had 11 for 110 yards.
"I don't understand (the penalties)," Leavitt said. "We seem to want to try to lose the game sometimes."
Leavitt compared it to free-throw shooting with the USF men's basketball team.
"It's just like (men's coach) Seth (Greenberg), on the free throws, when he gets (asked about it). I'm sure he is tired of it because I'm sure those guys go out and shoot free throws all the time," Leavitt said. "He doesn't understand it, and with me, I don't understand it. I tell them, talk about it, and it's a lack of discipline, I know that, and it's frustrating, it really is.
"We'll keep working on it and try to get our guys to stop doing dumb things."
ETC.: Safety John Miller had his left leg gashed just below the knee, he suspected by a wayward cleat. ... While teammates cavorted with fans at the end, defensive tackle Tavares Jurineack hobbled off with assistance with a mild concussion. ... With a bye Saturday, USF is off today and resumes practice Tuesday. On Thursday, it holds Bull Bowl, a scrimmage between scout team players. ... Unbeaten Bowling Green, decimated by injuries, beat Western Michigan in overtime, keeping alive the possibility of the first ranked team coming to Raymond James Stadium when the Falcons visit Nov. 16. ... Santiago Gramatica's 41-yard field goal with 3:29 left was a career long and inspired a Gramatica-esque celebration from the low-key sophomore.