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TAMPA -- Aside from coach Jim Leavitt, no one has been more responsible for the rapid ascension of South Florida football than Marquel Blackwell.
The senior from St. Petersburg has been quarterbacking the Bulls since, seemingly, the birth of the program.
In Saturday's 56-6 win over Division I-AA Charleston Southern, Blackwell surpassed Chad Barnhardt's school mark of 121 passes without an interception, improving the record to 123. It is Blackwell's third streak of at least 99.
More remarkable was the fact that there was a passing record Blackwell didn't hold. He improved his record to 27-12 as USF's starting quarterback, and it essentially was his 28th win as he played most of another game early in his freshman season. Of active QBs, only Miami's Ken Dorsey (34-1) and Wisconsin's Brooks Bollinger (28-11) have more wins as starters.
"He's sure helped us win a lot of ballgames here," Leavitt said. "My expectations for Marquel are so high, it's enormous."
Blackwell, who has 28 interceptions in 1,305 career attempts, has three more games (four if the Bulls play in a bowl) in the most storied career in the program's brief history. He has set a high standard for future USF quarterbacks.
"Marquel's such a good football player," Leavitt said. "He does so many things well."
REDUX: It is the year of the penalty for USF. The Bulls' 15 for 145 yards Saturday vaulted them back to the top (bottom?) of the national rankings with 99, seven more than next-worst Louisiana-Monroe. USF's 845 penalty yards are second-worst in the nation behind Oregon State's 935.
FURIOUS FROSH: Freshman defensive end Terrence Royal, from Wharton High, had his best game, leading USF with seven tackles and three for loss. Royal also notched his first career sack, as did redshirt freshman defensive end Jon Simmons.
NEW METHODS: DeAndrew Rubin's 82-yard kickoff return touchdown was the second in school history and first of his career. The senior has four punt return touchdowns, two this season.
FIRST TIME: Kawika Mitchell's 56-yard touchdown on a fake punt was his first career score. It contributed to the Bulls' season-high 267 rushing yards.
CLOSING IN: With his second straight 100-yard receiving day (eight catches, 100 yards), Hugh Smith has 48 receptions this season, 30th nationally and five shy of surpassing Huey Whittaker's school record set last season.
MORE FIRSTS: Pinellas County products Cedric King and Billy Henderson made their first career receptions, and Henderson had a career-high 51 rushing yards on 11 carries. Junior transfer David Bossone, a Palm Harbor University graduate, had his first two carries for 2 yards.
MY BAD: Leavitt took the blame for Charleston Southern's kickoff return touchdown.
"I put in three or four guys that hadn't even practiced on the kickoff team. I shouldn't have done that," he said.
STYMIED: CSU's 76 total yards (in 54 plays) were two more than the fewest the Bulls have allowed (74 in 1997 vs. Kentucky Wesleyan). The 1.4 yards per play were within 0.1 of the record low by Kentucky Wesleyan and Southwest Texas (1999).