After a bye week, USF gets its game back and cruises over Liberty 44-6.
By ANTONYA ENGLISH
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 22, 2000
|[Times photo: Bill Serne]
Chris Iskra is lifted up by Scott McCready after Iskra's 68-yard TD pass reception against Liberty.
TAMPA -- Coming off the most lopsided loss in school history two weeks ago and having extra time to mull it over during last week's bye, South Florida coach Jim Leavitt said what he wanted most from Saturday's game against Liberty was a good performance from his team -- and a win.
He got the victory. The performance is up to interpretation.
Bolstered by its defense and special teams unit early, then capped by a solid offensive effort, South Florida defeated Liberty 44-6 in front of 25,161 at Raymond James Stadium.
"We didn't do a very good job," Leavitt said. "I was disappointed with the way we played. I didn't think we played with very much discipline. ... I think if we had played the way we did against Troy State, it would have been over at halftime. But we didn't. So I worry about the team not getting better all the time, that's my biggest concern."
The Bulls (4-3) jumped to a quick lead, was up 23-6 at halftime, and never looked back.
An early Liberty mistake set up South Florida's first score. Senior defensive back Anthony Henry intercepted a pass from Liberty quarterback Biff Parson and returned it to the 7-yard line.
Two plays later, Otis Dixon scored on a 3-yard run for a 7-0 lead with 12:10 left in the first quarter.
On its next possession, South Florida put together an 89-yard, nine-play drive that culminated with a 31-yard pass from quarterback Marquel Blackwell to Charlie Jackson, giving the Bulls a 14-0 lead with 47 seconds left in the first quarter. It was the senior's first touchdown catch of the season.
"It was a real relief because it had been a while since I was in the end zone," Jackson said.
Liberty (2-5) had its chances early. After USF's first touchdown, the Flames mounted a 10-play drive that used nearly six minutes, but came away empty. The Bulls' defense made sure it was that way all night for the Flames.
Liberty rushed for just 29 yards on 33 carries. And although Parson threw for 154 yards (14-of-33) in the game, he had no touchdowns.
Meanwhile, South Florida amassed 357 yards: 102 rushing on 34 carries and 255 through the air.
In a game with such a lopsided score, there were a few highlight plays.
There was the reverse that netted 34 yards before being called back for a penalty; a USF fake punt, a blocked punt and two big-time interceptions.
The game also showcased a few different members of the Bulls' offense.
With USF leading by 14, freshman tight end Mark Feldman caught an 11-yard touchdown from Blackwell with 5:40 left in the second quarter to give South Florida a 21-0 lead. It was the first touchdown of Feldman's career. Blackwell also threw a 68-yard touchdown to Chris Iskra with 13:34 left in the game, Iskra's second career score. And then there were the old, familiar weapons: Blackwell and running back Rafael Williams.
The sophomore quarterback was 14-of-20 and threw for 255 yards and four touchdowns, connecting with six receivers. Williams rushed for 74 yards on 14 carries and caught seven passes for 77 yards.
Along with the razzle dazzle, there was a little of the bizarre.
After Feldman's touchdown, Liberty defensive back William Haith returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown that pulled the Flames to within 21-6.
But the snap was botched on the ensuing extra-point attempt, causing kicker Jay Kelley to throw an errant pass that was intercepted by Anthony Williams and returned for a defensive point-after attempt, giving South Florida a 23-6 lead with 5:21 left in the second quarter.
The news wasn't all good for South Florida. The Bulls began without left tackle Kenyatta Jones, who was out with a sprained ankle. Later, center Joey Sipp, who has started every game since the inception of the program, was carted off the field in the third quarter with a right ankle injury.
The special teams allowed 148 yards on five returns. Then there were penalties: 13 for 118 yards.
Without Jones and Sipp, the line struggled and the Bulls didn't score in the third quarter. They made up for it in the fourth, scoring three touchdowns in the final 15 minutes.
With 14:55 left, Blackwell connected with Scott McCready for a 5-yard touchdown. Just over a minute later, Blackwell hit Iskra. Then with just over one minute left in the game, sophomore defensive lineman Carl Zalak capped the scoring with a 38-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"I'm proud of our football team," Leavitt said. "Maybe I expect too much."
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