tampabay.com

Bulls' struggles on punts continue

By GREG AUMAN
Published September 17, 2006


ORLANDO - Twice in three games a botched kick from a freshman punter has resulted in a touchdown for USF's opponent.

On Saturday, with USF up 17-10 in the fourth quarter, Delbert Alvarado fumbled a snap, scrambled to his right and tried a quick kick that was blocked by UCF's Jordan Richards and returned 31 yards by Blake Carter for a touchdown.

"I should have taken off and just ran the ball, gave my defense a chance, but Coach always taught me to try to get the ball off. I thought I had time," said Alvarado, a Robinson graduate. "I just went with my instinct and tried to get it off."

Asked if the walk to the bench was a long one, Alvarado smiled: "I jogged over there, and it seemed like forever. Coach (Jim Leavitt) is staring me down and stuff."

Few Bulls were happier than Alvarado when quarterback Matt Grothe led a 90-yard touchdown drive that let them escape with a 24-17 win.

"I had no doubt we were going to score. I talked to Matt. I'm like, 'I know you're going to get me (a touchdown),' " he said. "After they scored, I tapped every offensive player and said, 'Thank you.' "

In USF's opener against McNeese State, freshman Ilia Petrov fumbled a low snap in the end zone and missed on a desperation kick. His fumble was recovered by McNeese for its only touchdown.

BIG KICK: Sophomore Mike Benzer, from nearby Altamonte Springs, had missed his first five field-goal attempts at USF, but he came through with a 30-yarder on the final play of the third quarter to tie it at 10.

"How about Mike Benzer? You've got to be proud of him," Leavitt said. "Again, it's adversity and how you deal with it. 0-for-5, that's a big kick."

STILL STRUGGLING: For the second week in a row, USF struggled to get yards from its running backs, with starter Ben Williams and backups Walt Smith and Keeley Dorsey rushing for 13 carries for 21 yards.

Williams, a sophomore walk-on from Lake Wales, got his first career touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard pass from Grothe.

LINE SHIFT: Sophomore Matt Huners of Palm Harbor made his second career start and his first at left tackle. Redshirt freshman Ryan Schmidt, a transfer from Kansas State, saw significant action at both guard positions. Senior tackle Thed Watson, who missed last weekend with an ankle injury, did not play.

MUCH IN COMMON: USF knew it would be without three key players under suspension for a violation of team rules, most notably running back Ricky Ponton. But Knights sophomore running back Kevin Smith, who rushed for 1,178 yards last season, did not play Saturday because he was suspended. Jason Peters played well in Smith's place, rushing for a career-best 98 yards on 20 carries.

THIS AND THAT: UCF fell to 0-10 all time against Big East teams. . . . Freshman walk-on Colby Erskin of Seminole had his first career catch, a 29-yard gain in the third quarter. . . . Former Armwood star Jarriett Buie had his first career sack, one of three for USF. . . . Former Alonso star Leger Douzable of UCF had four tackles for loss, including two sacks of Grothe. USF hadn't allowed a sack in its first two games, but gave up five Saturday. . . . Junior cornerback Trae Williams, a Durant grad, had two interceptions, the first Bull to do that since Sidney Simpson against East Carolina in 2004. Williams has four in three games, putting him among the NCAA leaders.