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Rant: All we want for Christmas is points ...

PETE YOUNG
Published December 21, 2003

Dear Santa:

Please, please, please give us some offense for 2004! The Tampa Bay area has been deprived of goals, runs, points, etc. throughout 2003.

Sure, the Bucs rang up 48 in the Super Bowl to open the year, but much of that came from defense. It has been the Dry Age for area offenses since.

The Lightning got off to a hot start this season, but then the Tampa Bay Area Anti-Offense Virus took hold. The Lightning scored a putrid 18 in its 12 games, a feeble 1.5 per, before Thursday's five-goal "eruption."

The Rays' Aubrey Huff, Rocco Baldelli and Carl Crawford are promising and productive, but the Rays were 12th in the AL in runs. Having just one player reach 20 home runs is insufficient in the long-ball era.

This fall the Bucs offense has been, well, the Bucs offense, scoring more than 20 once in nine games heading into Saturday. That stinks. The 21 in Saturday's fourth quarter didn't help. South Florida football adopted the Bucs formula this season: great defense, feeble offense. The Bulls ranked 107 out of 117 in Division I-A total offense.

USF basketball, same story. Heading into Saturday's game against FIU the Bulls averaged 57.5 points in a four-game losing streak.

Santa, we need some offense!

Sincerely,

Rave: but don't mess with the defense, Santa

Dear Santa:

Please don't take away any of the Tampa Bay area's outstanding defense in order to fulfill Rant's wishes for better offense in 2004.

These defensive guys are great!

Derrick Brooks, what more can be said? He's still among the very best. He, Simeon Rice and Ronde Barber lead a Bucs defense that, despite its fair share of injuries and some late-game letdowns, allowed the fewest points in the NFL, 201 through the 14 games before Saturday's. USF football ranked second nationally behind Oklahoma in yards allowed per play, 4.1. Note to the Bucs: Consider drafting Bulls safety J.R. Reed and linebacker Maurice Jones.

Defense was the Devil Rays' strong suit in 2003, and the Lightning arguably has the best 1-2 goaltending punch in the NHL in Nikolai Khabibulin and John Grahame, who have combined for a .924 save percentage. Maybe USF basketball has trouble finding the hoop, but Bulls center Gerrick Morris is second in Conference USA with 3.6 blocks a game and ranked in the top 10 nationally through Dec. 15.

We love our defense, Santa. Please keep it coming.

Sincerely,

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