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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Fitting right in
In their first game as a ranked team, the Bulls roll past the Tar Heels.
By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published September 23, 2007
The Bulls' Amarri Jackson stretches across the goal line for a touchdown, capping an 81-yard scoring drive in the second quarter. USF led 20-3 by halftime
[DANIEL WALLACE | Times]
[DANIEL WALLACE | Times]
USF's Mike Ford (26) celebrates scoring the Bulls' first touchdown during the first quarter of their 37-10 victory over North Carolina.
TAMPA - They could have been distracted, but they were dominant. They could have looked ahead, but they just looked impressive. They could have gotten caught up in their first national ranking, but all they did was turn more heads.
No. 23 USF, still getting used to the sound of that, made it look easy against North Carolina, controlling every aspect of a nationally televised 37-10 victory Saturday at Raymond James Stadium that sets up Friday's soon-to-be-sold-out prime-time showdown with No. 5 West Virginia.
"I was concerned, because in life there are so many distractions," coach Jim Leavitt said. "But they seemed to be pretty focused. ... It was a very good win for us, for our program. We know we're playing a great, great team coming in here Friday night and we're excited about the challenge."
First, they had to take care of UNC, whose two previous losses had been by a combined five points. USF (3-0) set the tone on its first two drives, marching 78 and 81 yards and scoring on a Mike Ford run and a Matt Grothe pass to Amarri Jackson. By halftime, the Bulls led 20-3 and had outgained UNC 329-80.
"I told the players, 'I don't think we could have gotten off to a much poorer start than we did at the start of this ball game,'" UNC coach Butch Davis said.
UNC quarterback T.J. Yates had averaged 300 yards and three touchdowns in his first three games, but USF made him look like just another freshman. He threw four interceptions, finishing 11-of-27 for 85 yards.
The Bulls defense, which forced five turnovers in its last game, an overtime upset of then-No. 17 Auburn two weeks ago, started right where it left off. UNC was held to 19 yards on its first seven possessions of the second half, with one first down gained in that stretch.
"Everybody thought we were still celebrating the Auburn win," said linebacker Brouce Mompremier, who had his first career interception. "We weren't worried about the rankings or anything."
Linebacker Ben Moffitt had his first interception, and defensive backs Trae Williams and Louis Gachette had picks, converting the four turnovers into 13 points.
"The picks are tremendous, because we get to sit on the bench while the offense goes back out," Mompremier said. "I think it gives the offense energy, though, to take it from there and score for us."
USF led 30-3 after three quarters, allowing many starters to rest in anticipation of Friday's game. Grothe, who threw for 216 yards in the first half, threw only three passes in the second half before giving way to backup Grant Gregory.
Of UNC's 164 yards of total offense, 62 came on its final drive against USF's second-string defense. The starters were already thinking about Friday and the opportunity awaiting them against the Mountaineers.
"I'm not going to lie," cornerback Mike Jenkins said. "In the back of my head, it was West Virginia, and once the fourth quarter came, it was all West Virginia. ... Right now, we're on a track to run the table, beat West Virginia, go on and keep winning out."
The announced crowd of 37,693 is the fifth-largest home attendance in USF history, loud enough to force two false starts on the goal line. USF announced 3,044 tickets remain for the West Virginia game, all but assuring Friday will be the first home sellout - that means 65,857 fans - for a huge opportunity that awaits the Bulls.
"The student section got really loud, probably as loud as I ever heard it," Leavitt said. "I imagine it'll be a little bit louder Friday night."
USF set the tone with two long drives to open the game, rolling out to a 14-0 lead and totaling 161 yards of total offense in the first six minutes. Here are the drives:
FIRST 9 plays, 78 yards, 3:23
MVP: Ben Williams rushed four times for 30 yards and caught a 27-yard pass from Matt Grothe, then threw a block on Mike Ford's 5-yard touchdown run.
SECOND 10 plays, 83 yards, 3:44
MVP: Grothe went 6-of-7 for 75 yards, finishing the drive with a 12-yard strike to Amarri Jackson for a 14-0 lead.
UNC freshman quarterback T.J. Yates entered Saturday's game ranked ninth nationally in pass efficiency, but USF's defense made it a long day for him. Here's a comparison of how Saturday compared to his previous games.
Stat First 3 USF
Yards 901 85
TDs 9 0
INTs 3 4
The 37 points scored is the most by USF since ... last year's 37-20 win at North Carolina.