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Leavitt has more questions than answers


© St. Petersburg Times, published September 25, 2000

Talk about adding insult to injury.

After perhaps their most painful loss of the season Saturday night, the Bulls were forced to hang around Waco, Texas, much longer than expected.

Their flight was delayed four hours, and the Bulls didn't arrive in Tampa until about 5 a.m. Sunday.

Sunday afternoon, South Florida coach Jim Leavitt hadn't made his way through any game film except that of the special teams. And what he saw from the 28-13 defeat left Leavitt with more questions than answers.

On Baylor's final scoring drive, the Bears' Daniel Andino missed a field goal with 3:29 left, but South Florida was called for a personal foul.

Leavitt said he plans to make some calls for an explanation. He thinks the ruling was incorrect.

"I want some answers on that last call, and I've got to call the office," Leavitt said, referring to the Conference USA office. "The rule is you're not supposed to line up straight on the center. We didn't. We fired gaps on each side of the center just like we've done for (four) years and just like we always did for six years at Kansas State.

"They said we went straight over the center. But I'm looking on film and our guys are going through the gap," Leavitt said. "They were Conference USA officials doing a Big 12 game. I don't understand, but I will call and try to find some answers."

If you're wondering why that call is the one that got under Leavitt's skin, here's why: Baylor had trouble stopping South Florida's offense all night.

With the missed field goal, the Bulls would have gotten the ball back with a chance to win.

Instead, the penalty gave Baylor half the distance to the goal line and the opportunity to score another touchdown with 1:52 remaining.

"Huge? No kidding," Leavitt said. "We would have had the ball at the 30, and they hadn't been able to stop us all night.

"It was a one-possession game and they get a personal foul and half the distance. It was very huge."

HOLDING ON: The Bulls fumbled four times during potential scoring drives -- one with first and goal on the Baylor 8-yard line and another within 30 yards of the end zone.

"We work on that every day in practice, just holding on to it," Leavitt said Sunday.

"One I didn't think was a fumble and two of them from Marquell (Blackwell, USF quarterback) were just effort. He was trying hard to get us some extra yards. He's just got to hold on to it better."

As for the penalties (13 for 99 yards), it was the three personal fouls -- most notably the two in the final seven minutes -- that upset Leavitt.

"Personal fouls kill me, and that's one I'm struggling with," he said. "We won't have that again or those players won't be playing."

OFFENSE RENEWED: After struggling the past two games, the offense came alive, amassing 409 yards.

But without a victory to show for it, the players weren't celebrating or able to assess just how well they performed.

"I don't know if it was a breakout game," center Joey Sipp said.

"The offense was doing good, getting yards. But you've got to hold on to the ball," he said. "If we hold on to it, it's a great game. You take away the four fumbles, and it's a whole different game."

INJURY UPDATE: Senior linebacker Marshall Smith sprained his MCL and may miss 3-4 weeks. Offensive tackle Ken Dawson and fullback Derrick Rackard are out with ankle injuries, and Dan Rodimer is sidelined with a concussion.

MOVING ON: The Bulls don't have time to feel sorry for themselves.

Troy State, USA Today's top-ranked Division I-AA team, is South Florida's next opponent. They play Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.

"We don't like to lose, it bothers you," Leavitt said. "We'll just try to correct things and get ready for the No. 1 I-AA team in the country. We can't make the mistakes we did if we want to win."

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