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Buckeyes help Bulls' bowl chances

By PETE YOUNG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 24, 2002

HOUSTON -- Early in the first quarter of South Florida's 32-14 win Saturday, the first at-large berth to a bowl game came open when Michigan's final pass against Ohio State was intercepted.

The Buckeyes' 14-9 victory put them in the national championship game Jan. 3 at the Fiesta Bowl, moving the rest of the Big Ten's bowl-eligible teams up a slot and freeing up the last bowl with a Big Ten tie-in, the Motor City.

"Most definitely I will be giving them another call," said USF athletic director Lee Roy Selmon, who spoke with Motor City Bowl representatives last week.

USF, which improved to 9-2, is an independent until joining Conference USA next season. Don Loding, a representative of the Motor City Bowl, said last week USF was among several at-large teams under consideration for the Dec. 26 game in Detroit if the Big Ten did not have enough bowl-eligible teams (at least six wins and a .500 record).

Up to three bowls with Big Ten tie-ins could have had openings, but Wisconsin and Purdue won their season finales Saturday to become eligible.

In the Mountain West, where four bids are available, no more than three will be filled because BYU lost Saturday to Utah. Conference USA also could have a bowl-eligible deficit.

"We'll make the calls and let people know we're 9-2 with a great fan base and a lot of enthusiasm," Selmon said. "Everyone I've talked to says they're going (to the bowl game) if we're going."

RECORD-SETTING SENIORS: USF quarterback Marquel Blackwell's three rushing touchdowns gave him 20 in his career, passing Rafael Williams (18) for most in school history.

Hugh Smith's four catches for 107 yards gave him 62 for 661 this season, both school records. Kawika Mitchell's eight tackles gave him a school-record 115 and his two tackles for loss gave him a school-record 19, one more than Greg Walls' 18 this season.

STICK OF THE DAY: In the first quarter, USF safety J.R. Reed blitzed from the right side as quarterback Nick Eddy faked a handoff the other way, turned to roll out and -- splat. Reed was at top speed when he drilled the 240-pound Eddy.

HE'S EVERYWHERE: Reed's two picks gave him six on the season, breaking the school record of five he shared with Anthony Henry. His career total of 11 broke Henry's mark by one.

VISITING NASA?: It was an ideal day for football -- 67 degrees, low humidity, a slight breeze, a few contrails crisscrossing the sky -- but attendance at Robertson Stadium was 12,856.

ROTATING RETURNERS: DeAndrew Rubin had all but two of USF's punt returns this season until last weekend against Bowling Green, when an ankle injury forced Ryan Hearn to take his place. The ankle kept Rubin off the field Saturday, and Reed and Brian Fisher returned punts.

THISCLOSE: USF cornerback Maurice Tucker appeared on his way to a 92-yard interception return in the second quarter, but he nicked the sideline with his foot near midfield. The Bulls were called for an illegal block on his return, so the would-be touchdown would have come back anyway.

GOOD SPORT: After the game, Blackwell tossed a football to a contingent of Houston fans who had razzed the Bulls.

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