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College football

USF rally falls short

UAB 22, USF 19: A 42-yard field goal with nine seconds left lifts the Blazers.

Published November 23, 2003

TAMPA - The penalties and turnovers kept piling up at an alarming rate. The deficit on the scoreboard kept growing larger. The clock kept ticking down.

By the middle of the fourth quarter Saturday, only the most die-hard souls gave bumbling South Florida any chance of overcoming the 16-point defict to UAB.

Then the Raymond James Stadium magic kicked in, and the cardiac Bulls were at it again ... until their luck finally ran out.

USF's dramatic rally to tie - 16 points in little more than three minutes - went for naught as UAB's Nick Hayes booted a 42-yard field goal with nine seconds left to lift UAB to a 22-19 win in front 30,216.

"I hurt about as bad as I can hurt right now. We had a lot riding on this game," senior linebacker Courtney Davenport said.

"We made a lot of dumb mistakes. There was a lot of stupid stuff we did on the field."

USF was 23-1 the past four seasons at Raymond James and is 3-0 in double overtime games this season, but the Bulls let this one slip away after the improbable comeback.

"We made a lot of different mistakes you can't make and win a ballgame," coach Jim Leavitt said.

The Bulls committed 16 penalties for 145 yards and made six turnovers, yet they had the ball at midfield with two minutes to go and the score tied. But UAB forced a punt, then drove to the winning kick.

"It (stinks). I don't know what to say. I don't know how to take losing," senior safety Kevin Verpaele said. "It just came down to that last drive. They made three nice plays."

The loss sent USF's 14 seniors out on a losing note and likely ends the Bulls' bowl chances.

USF needed to beat UAB (5-6, 4-3) and win the season finale Saturday at Memphis to have the minimum six Division I-A wins necessary to be bowl eligible. If USF beats Memphis, it can appeal to get one of its two I-AA wins (over Nicholls State and Charleston Southern) to count toward its overall total.

"We had so many things hanging on this," USF center Alex Herron said. "Everything has gone our way, we've won all of the double overtime games ... but not today."

USF used three quarterbacks and the offense struggled with all three. Midway through the third quarter, starter Ronnie Banks (6-of-15, 70 yards, one interception) and backups Pat Julmiste (6-of-16, 74 yards, three interceptions; 13 carries for 73 yards) and Brian Fisher all had thrown an interception.

With fans starting to stream out midway through the fourth quarter, the Bulls came alive. Buoyed by a blocked punt by Javan Camon, USF stormed back to tie it on two touchdown runs by Vince Brewer (11 carries, 59 yards) and two 2two-point conversions.

USF recovered Camon's blocked punt with 7:45 to go at the UAB 16. Three plays later, Brewer took it up the gut from the 1 to make it 19-9. Fisher lined up under center on the two-point try and ran it in to trim the deficit to 19-11.

The Bulls forced a punt, and Fisher's alert return of the low kick gave the Bulls prime field position at the UAB 36 with 4:43 to go. After a false start, Julmiste hit Allynson Sheffield for a 31-yard gain to the 10. Two plays later, Brewer swept left from the 5 to make it 19-17 with 3:28 to go and sent the crowd into a frenzy.

Fisher lined up in the shotgun for the two-point attempt, and Brewer ran clear to the right side. He deftly corralled Fisher's low throw while lunging over the goal line to tie it at 19.

On UAB's next possession, USF safety J.R. Reed intercepted a long pass and returned it to the USF 48 with 1:52 left, but three plays later USF punted and UAB took over at its 18 with 1:22 to go.

"When J.R made the interception I was 100 percent sure we were going to win," Davenport said.

Backup quarterback Chris Williams, who had replaced injured Curtis Falany earlier in the fourth quarter, hit Roddy White for 26 yards to the USF 38 with 42 seconds to go.

Then he hit White for 13 yards to the 25, spiking it with 14 seconds left and bringing on Hayes for the winner.

"I didn't think they would drive on our defense," Leavitt said. "I didn't think that could happen."

UAB took advantage of 10 first-half penalties on USF to claim a 16-3 lead.

On the final possession of the first half Banks sustained a lower back injury while scrambling for 5 yards to midfield.

Julmiste replaced him and ran 16 yards to the UAB 25, spiking the ball with one second to go and enabling the Bulls to attempt a 42-yard field goal. Gramatica hooked it and it remained 16-3 at intermission.

[Last modified November 23, 2003, 01:46:45]

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