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Toledo is the role model for pulling upset

By ANTONYA ENGLISH

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 4, 2000


TAMPA -- Some football teams dream of being Florida State. Others want to be like Nebraska.

This week, South Florida most likely would like to imitate Toledo.

Yes, the Rockets.

Fresh on the heels of its 40-0 win over Jacksonville State, South Florida is preparing to take on SEC foe Kentucky. The Bulls will be a big underdog, much like Toledo was before going into State College, Pa., Saturday and upsetting Penn State 24-6.

USF coach Jim Leavitt knows what Toledo felt like before Saturday.

"It's going to be a real tough task for us," Leavitt said Sunday morning after reviewing film of Saturday night's game. "We're playing an SEC team in our fourth season of football. Nobody gives us much of a chance. People think we're going to get beat by 50, 60 or 70 points. Nobody thinks we're going to be able to stay in it with them."

After Saturday night's game, Leavitt admitted that thoughts of Kentucky began to creep into his mind early in the fourth quarter when the Bulls took their 40-0 lead.

Here's something Leavitt might have been contemplating: Kentucky has proven to be very beatable. The Wildcats have lost five of their past six games and have given up 40 or more points in three of those. Their last win was Nov. 13, 19-17 over Vanderbilt.

"It's going to be a very different atmosphere with guys probably two times as big as we are," said senior receiver Charlie Jackson, who became the Bulls' all-time receptions leader Saturday night. "But we're not going up there scared. We're going to give it our best, compete and hopefully come out on top."

A GOOD MEASURE: Leavitt has said playing the type of schedule the Bulls face this season is a good measuring stick to determine how far USF still has to go to be ready for Conference USA play in 2003.

He may be right.

C-USA's Louisville defeated Kentucky 40-34 in overtime Saturday. Louisville beat UK 56-28 last season.

And Southern Miss, another C-USA team and USF's Oct. 7 opponent, fell 19-16 to Tennessee on Saturday.

BUTLER'S RETURN: Last September, senior linebacker Jason Butler injuried his knee so severely that he has permanent ligament and nerve damage. Saturday night, Butler defied the odds and returned to the playing field, registering two unassisted tackles.

"He did well, really good," Leavitt said.

IT'S GOOD. SORT OF: Kicker Bill Gramatica was 4-for-4 on field goals but did not have a perfect night. "Gramatica did a great job; he hit all his field goals," Leavitt said. "I thought his kickoffs could have been better. I was sort of disappointed in that."

INJURY REPORT: After sitting out Saturday night's game, Leavitt said, senior safety Jay Mize and defensive end John Brown "should be ready to go" against Kentucky. Mize and Brown missed the game with neck and ankle injuries, respectively. Defensive end Ian Blackwell is doubtful for Saturday.

FIXING FITTS: Senior offensive guard Jimmy Fitts continues to miss playing time with cramps, a problem he has battled since high school.

"It's hurting us badly because we need him in there," Leavitt said. "He's one of our best offensive linemen."

Leavitt praised Matt Sparrowhawk and Ken Dawson for their work on the offensive line.

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