tampabay.com

Field-goal magic returns

Delbert Alvarado shakes USF out of a season long kicking slump with Big East record.

By MIKE CAMUNAS
Published November 12, 2006


TAMPA - The search for a kicker might finally be over.

The Bulls had a solid performance Saturday in their 10th game. Freshman Delbert Alvarado, a Robinson High grad who replaced a struggling Mike Benzer in the North Carolina game Oct. 14, went 2-for-3 on field goals and made three extra points.

"Some people might not be happy with our kicking game," coach Jim Leavitt said. "That's too bad because we work real hard at it."

USF was 3-for-8 in field goals before Saturday - the longest a 30-yarder by Benzer.

But Alvarado gave Bulls fans some hope. On his first attempt, he hit a careerlong 47-yard field goal. Later in the first half he missed a 30-yarder.

Then redemption came for the 6-foot, 175-pound Alvarado on the final play of the half, when he was sent out to attempt a 56-yarder in the same stadium - toward the same end zone - the Buccaneers' Matt Bryant hit a winning 62-yard field goal on Oct. 22.

Like Bryant, he nailed it, for the longest field goal in Big East history and a career high for Alvarado.

"I was looking at it, and I was like, 'That's not going to make it,' " Alvarado said. "But my holder (quarterback Anthony Severino) said, 'That's in, brother.' I was leaning with the ball, helping it go in, and then everyone pummeled me on the field."

It was the second-longest field goal in school history, behind Bill Gramatica's 63-yarder in 2000.

"(I) just did my routine - kept my head down," said Alvarado, who is 3-for-4 on field goals this season. "I didn't think about (Bryant). I knew I was standing on the (Bucs) flag (painted on the 50-yard line), and was like, 'Okay.' But I just kicked it, and I didn't know it was good until the student section went crazy."

Leavitt said he "appreciated (Alvarado) not quitting on (the kicking) and not listening to what anyone had to say about it."

One player never lost faith in him.

"I have more confidence in him when he (kicks) longer ones," said quarterback Matt Grothe, Alvarado's roommate. "When he kicks the shorter ones, he tries too hard."

Though Alvarado said it was just routine, there were some doubts.

"I've seen him kick it that far in practice," cornerback Trae Williams said. "But when he went out there, I said, 'I don't know. Maybe we should go for it.' But I knew he had it once he kicked it."