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Baylor settles secret battle

By ANTONYA ENGLISH

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 24, 2000


WACO, Texas -- Baylor coach Kevin Steele promised to keep his decision over who would start at quarterback confidential until kickoff Saturday and went to great lengths.

Steele closed practices last week, made his four potential quarterbacks off limits to the media and put a gag order on the rest of the players and coaches on that subject.

Redshirt freshman Guy Tomcheck got the start. But with 1:08 left in the first quarter, quarterback No. 2, freshman Kerry Dixon, made his way into the game. Tomcheck returned early in the second quarter and played the rest of the half, leading Baylor to its two touchdowns of the half.

For the game, Tomcheck was 20-of-28 for 223 yards, no interceptions and three touchdowns.

PREPARING FOR THE BIG STRETCH: Saturday's game was the first in the toughest stretch of the season for South Florida. On the heels of its Big 12 opponent, the Bulls host Troy State (ranked No. 1 in the ESPN/USA Today and Sports Network I-AA polls) Saturday, followed by a game at No. 22 Southern Mississippi.

South Florida coach Jim Leavitt said the games will be a huge challenge.

"We've got a stretch," Leavitt said. "We play Baylor, then we play an awful good Troy State team and they have this week off so they have two weeks to prepare for us."

FLORIDA/TEXAS CONNECTION: South Florida and Baylor rely heavily on homegrown players. All but eight Bears players are from Texas. For South Florida, only four players hail from outside Florida.

Baylor has one Floridian with impressive credentials: assistant coach Tommie Frazier. The former Nebraska All-America quarterback and Heisman Trophy runner-up is in his second season as running backs coach.

Frazier was a three-sport letterman at Bradenton Manatee High.

LISTMAKERS: The game included two players considered among the nation's best at their positions. South Florida senior linebacker Vassay Marc is a member of the Butkus Award "watch list" and Baylor's Gary Baxter is among the 40 members of the Thorpe Award list.

The Thorpe is given to the nation's most outstanding defensive back. Baylor's Everett Thomas won the inaugural award in 1986. Baxter is considered among the top NFL prospects at defensive back by some. The Bears have sent 21 defensive backs to the NFL, including current pros Ray Crockett (Denver), George McCullough (Tennessee) and Frankie Smith (Chicago).

STANDING IN: With senior receiver Charlie Jackson absent because of the death of his grandmother, several other Bulls got a chance to showcase their talent. Senior Scott McCready and junior Hugh Smith had big nights. McCready caught six passes for 90 yards, including one touchdown, and Smith caught five for 70.

PREVIEW THE CREW: Leavitt wasn't thrilled with the officiating, including several calls like Smith's fumble that appeared to be caused by the ground. Leavitt headed straight for three officials at the end of the game to complain, then had to stop himself from publicly criticizing them. The crew was from Conference USA, which South Florida will join in two years.

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