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Butler back strong, sets tone


© St. Petersburg Times, published September 17, 2000

TAMPA -- Linebacker Jason Butler, who was South Florida's most dominant tackler before sustaining a devastating knee injury last season, slowly is making his way back.

Butler, a senior, made his first start at middle linebacker Saturday since the second game of 1999, when he tore ligaments and suffered nerve damage in his left knee against Southwest Texas State. Before the injury he was USF's leading tackler, with 166 tackles in the Bulls' first two seasons. Butler helped set the tone for the defense early, stuffing James Madison running back Robert Carson for no gain on the game's second play and making two more tackles in that series. He entered with four tackles in two games, and doubled that total by the end of the first quarter. He finished with six tackles, two for a loss.

"Jason Butler played a whale of a game tonight," coach Jim Leavitt said. "That guy is a competitor."

Butler replaced Anthony Williams, out for the game with a sprained knee. Williams is expected to return Saturday against Baylor.

INJURY REPORT: Leavitt announced that senior offensive lineman Sean Cassese, who has a herniated disc in his neck that surfaced a week ago, will not return to football. He will have surgery in the next few weeks.

Defensive end John Brown aggravated his right ankle sprain in the fourth quarter. Nose tackle Lee Roy Selmon Jr. sustained a mild shoulder sprain but is expected to play Saturday against Baylor. Offensive lineman Ken Dawson left with a sprained left ankle in the second half.

Receiver Reshod Durant (flu) and defensive end Ian Blackwell (knee) were out.

FAIR WEATHER FANS? Here's something you don't see every day: Eighty James Madison fans made the trip to Tampa, but were on a flight home by 8 p.m. The fans apparently were concerned about being blown away, not by the Bulls but Hurricane Gordon.

BIG HAY PLAY: Defensive end Shawn Hay had his first career interception in the second quarter. Hay picked off a Charles Berry pass and returned it 7 yards to the Dukes' 22. The play led to a 33-yard Bill Gramatica field goal that made it 26-0.

BIG MANN: Strong safety Roy Manns, USF's all-time leading tackler and interception leader, had his eighth career interception late in the third quarter.

MILLER'S TIME: Freshman John Miller's fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown in the second quarter was the first time in James Madison's 28-year history that an opponent had recovered a fumble in the end zone.

SEVENTH CENTURY: USF's leading rusher, senior Rafael Williams, had his seventh career 100-yard game, with 28 carries for 122 yards. He accounted for more than half of the Bulls' 229 yards.

Williams has 1,877 yards for his career.

BULL BITS: Even though the Bulls led 26-0 at halftime, the offense was only on the field for 12:48 of the first two quarters. ... After James Madison missed a 46-yard field-goal attempt on its first series, it didn't get back into USF territory until five minutes left in the third quarter.

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