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Blackwell shines, and team yawns


© St. Petersburg Times,
published October 22, 2001

TAMPA -- This is what it has come to. He completed every pass he attempted in the second half (13) and connected on 37 of 46 in the game, and it barely drew positive recognition from his coaches and teammates.

After South Florida quarterback Marquel Blackwell put up those gaudy numbers in Saturday's 42-12 win over Southern Utah, (plus three rushing touchdowns, three passing touchdowns, 295 passing yards with just one interception), the collective reaction was "no big deal."

That's how good he has been this season. It was considered routine.

"Marquel did some good things tonight," USF coach Jim Leavitt said.

"He did what he normally does," added running back Clenton Crossley.

Ho hum.

Soon, the junior will own every meaningful USF passing record he doesn't have already. Next week against Liberty he will begin surpassing the single-season marks for completions (186), attempts (326), yards (2,362) and touchdowns (17).

Blackwell, through seven games, has 182 completions in 318 attempts for 1,901 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also has six rushing touchdowns in the past two games and eight for the season, one shy of the team record.

SPECIAL BLOCKING: DeAndrew Rubin's 42-yard punt return in the third quarter was beautiful to watch, and not so much because of Rubin. The Bulls threw three sensational blocks to spring him, and Rubin almost took it all the way, getting to the Southern Utah 2.

It appeared starting cornerback Maurice Tucker and reserve defensive back Johnnie Jones threw the second and third blocks, but the uniform number of the player throwing the initial block was obscured on replays.

AT LAST: Huey Whittaker scored his first career touchdown Sept. 8 at Pittsburgh, but it was called back due to a penalty.

In the six weeks since that game, Whittaker, a first-year sophomore, established himself as the Bulls' leading receiver, but he had not gotten into the end zone until the third quarter Saturday when he caught a 7-yard touchdown from Blackwell. About seven minutes later he caught his second touchdown from 11 yards.

Whittaker leads the Bulls with 40 catches for 400 yards. He had a team-high nine catches for 82 yards Saturday.

GETTING BETTER: Crossley, a redshirt freshman, set a career high Saturday with 85 yards rushing on 13 attempts. He leads the Bulls with 264 yards on 64 carries, and his yards per carry average jumped from 3.5 to 4.0.

STONEWALLED: Southern Utah was held to 133 total yards, and more than half of that (74) came on the opening possession of the second half when the Thunderbirds drove to their lone touchdown. That series aside, Southern Utah gained just 59 yards on 41 plays.

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