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USF drops big chance

The turnover-prone Bulls lose 28-13 at Baylor after trailing by one in the fourth quarter.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 24, 2000


WACO, Texas -- They will wake up in Tampa this morning and wish they had this one to do over again.

The South Florida Bulls went into Saturday night with everything in their favor. The Bulls were coming off a huge win over a ranked Division I-AA opponent, taking on a battered Baylor team that lost its starting quarterback last week and had won two games in its past 13.

But the outcome came down to who made the fewest mistakes. Or in this case, who made the last mistake.

In the final 12 minutes, USF had two critical turnovers (four in the game) and one costly penalty that helped Baylor earn a 28-13 win in front of 21,157 at Floyd Casey Stadium.

"It's pretty easy to see what happened," USF coach Jim Leavitt said. "We just can't fumble the ball. If you take away a fumble or something, the whole game changes."

With USF trailing 14-13 and 12:16 left, a Baylor mistake gave the Bulls a golden opportunity to earn their first win over a Division I-A opponent.

Baylor running back Darrell Bush broke into the open field for a 58-yard run and looked poised to take it another 20 for a touchdown. But defensive back Glenn Davis ran Bush down from behind, grabbed him by his collar and caused a fumble, which defensive back Anthony Henry recovered.

With a first down on its 16-yard-line, South Florida (2-2) had silenced a stunned crowd and began its own drive for the lead, starting with a 27-yard run by quarterback Marquel Blackwell. But two plays later, Henry, in at wide receiver, fumbled after catching a pass from Blackwell, giving Baylor the ball on its 46 with 11:05 left.

Six plays later, quarterback Guy Tomcheck threw a 9-yard pass to Reggie Newhouse to give the Bears a 21-13 lead.

Then came South Florida's final critical mistake.

After a 60-yard kickoff return by DeAndrew Rubin that gave the Bulls first down on the Bears' 39 with 7:59 left, South Florida started another drive that ended with a Blackwell fumble on the Baylor 29 with 7:16 left.

There were no more chances for a comeback.

Baylor (2-1) took over and mounted a 12-play drive that ended with Melvin Barnett's 6-yard touchdown run with 1:52 left. Baylor had been forced to kick a 36-yard field goal three plays earlier with 3:29 left, which Daniel Andino missed, but a personal foul gave the Bears a first down.

The Bulls had their chances for a win.

The offense, which had struggled much of the season, flourished. Blackwell rushed for a career-high 132 yards and was 22-of-42 for 236 yards and one touchdown. USF gained 409 yards, including 173 on the ground.

South Florida took a 7-0 lead on a 29-yard pass from Blackwell to Scott McCready with just under five minutes left in the first quarter.

That score might have given the Bulls a 14-0 lead were it not for a costly mistake on the opening drive: Blackwell fumbled 8 yards from the goal line. Later, with just over one minute left in the first quarter, Hugh Smith fumbled after catching a pass from Blackwell.

"We knew the offense was clicking tonight, but it seemed like every time we started to drive, we were fumbling again," center Joey Sipp said.

Despite playing without its injured starting quarterback, Greg Cicero, Baylor generated 370 yards of offense (223 passing) and had 147 rushing yards.

Baylor tied the score at 7 on a 4-yard pass from Tomcheck to Andra Fuller with 3:28 left in the first half.

Then with just under a minute left in the half, a 44-yard pass from Tomcheck to Newhouse set up a 9-yard touchdown to Lanny O'Steen with 26 seconds left, giving Baylor a 14-7 lead.

Bill Gramatica's 34-yard field goal with 9:12 left in the third quarter pulled the Bulls to within 14-10.

Gramatica's 32-yard field goal with 3:03 left in the third made it 14-13, but that was as close as South Florida got.

"I know we were outgained, but they've got a good football team," Baylor coach Kevin Steele said. "We just couldn't contain that quarterback (Blackwell). But Guy was huge tonight and Reggie (77 yards on three carries) was huge tonight."

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