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Banks takes charge to lead White to victory

USF: Ronnie Banks and White team capitalize on mistakes in 31-6 win.

By PETE YOUNG, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 13, 2003

TAMPA -- Over the course of the spring, South Florida coach Jim Leavitt has said repeatedly that new No.1 quarterback Ronnie Banks is ready to step in for graduated Marquel Blackwell.

As for Banks' backups, well, Leavitt has been less assured, and Saturday's spring game reaffirmed his feelings.

A barrage of second-quarter turnovers by the Green team, led by young quarterbacks David Mullins and Pat Julmiste, led to a scoring onslaught by the Banks-led White in the 31-6 win.

"We feel pretty good about Ronnie Banks," Leavitt said. "He does some good things. He directs things well, he handles himself well.

"David Mullins and Pat have a ways to go. I'm not down on them, they just need to play more football."

Banks, who will be a junior this fall when he leads USF in its inaugural season in Conference USA, played the first three quarters and was 9-of-18 for 89 yards with a touchdown.

Among the approximately 2,000 in attendance and watching from the sideline: Blackwell.

"Ronnie did real well moving the ball," Blackwell said. "He's going to be all right."

Banks connected with freshman Darren Haliburton from 4 yards out on an improvised play for a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, buying time by rolling out.

On the White's next possession, Banks had back-to-back 22-yard completions to Allynson Sheffield and Marcus Edwards, but Justin Geisler's 42-yard field-goal attempt was wide.

Then came the succession of Green turnovers. Mullins (8-of-18, 60 yards, two interceptions) led the Green into White territory, but safety J.R. Reed snared an underthrown deep sideline pass and picked his way up the sideline 83 yards to the 4. Quinton Callum swept right for the touchdown and the 14-0 lead.

A few plays later, linebacker Stephen Nicholas made a fingertip interception of a Mullins pass, leading to a 1-yard touchdown run by Clenton Crossley.

On the next play, Mullins was sacked and fumbled, allowing the White to tack on a field goal before the half for a 24-0 lead.

"We had the big plays and we converted," Banks said. "That's what you want to do, you want to score as quickly as possible."

Banks had an edge on his understudies: Defenders were not allowed to hit him; he was ruled down on contact.

"It was advantage-disadvantage," Banks said. "I'm a little banged up, so that was nice, but there were a few times I know I could have got away."

Defense accounted for the second-half touchdowns. Mullins switched to the White team in the fourth quarter, and his fumble was returned 52 yards for a touchdown by Kevin Verpaele.

Julmiste (3-of-15, 16 yards), a freshman who showed a powerful arm, was sacked by Julian Johnson and fumbled in the final minutes. Kenny Huebner picked it up and pitched to Johnson, who went 30 yards for the score.

DeJuan Green led all rushers with 34 yards on nine carries and Tim Jones and Anwar McNeil each had two sacks.

"There's no question we lost a lot of good players (from last season), but I'm encouraged," Leavitt said. "I think we have a shot at being pretty good, but I don't know. We have a lot of work to do."

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