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Leavitt sees good, not good enough


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 23, 2000

TAMPA -- Admittedly, South Florida coach Jim Leavitt is a perfectionist.

"When I close my eyes," he said, "all I see are great plays. Great plays on offense, great plays on defense, great plays on special teams. I see great blocks, no penalties ... "

That is not, however, what Leavitt saw in Saturday's 44-6 victory over Liberty. The Bulls were flagged repeatedly (13 penalties for 118 yards), allowed a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and gave up 12 first downs, even if they didn't give up any offensive touchdowns.

The score may say otherwise, but Leavitt expected better against the Division I-AA Flames (2-5).

"That we can play with not a lot of discipline and win that big says something," Leavitt said.

But does it say USF (4-3) is ready to earn its first victory against a Division I-A team? Connecticut, Saturday's opponent, is 3-4 after a 38-35 victory over Akron on Saturday. This is the independent Huskies' first season as a member of I-A; their other victories are over I-AA Colgate and Buffalo.

INJURY REPORT: Center Joey Sipp, who made his USF-best 40th consecutive start Saturday but left with a sprained ankle, is day-to-day, Leavitt said. "Some guys sprain ankles and don't play," he said. "Joey's a little different. He is so tough. I expect if there's a way he can be back, he will."

A TRIBUTE: Leavitt opened his post-game comments Saturday by talking about 10-year-old Steven Adams, a Bulls fan who died of cancer last week. The death of Steven, who visited the locker room during the inaugural game in 1997, was "really emotional" for the Bulls, Leavitt said. "I want to make sure his family understands they are in our prayers." NEW FACE: Defensive tackle Carl Zalak, a walk-on transfer from the University of Albany who had made one appearance for USF, made one of the game's most memorable plays. Zalak returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown with 1:02 left. A sophomore, he spent 1999 on the scout team.

STAT MATTERS: Paced mostly by the injured DeAndrew Rubin (sprained ankle), the Bulls are rated second in Division I-AA in kick returns with an average of 26.93 yards on 15 returns. Hugh Smith had USF's only kickoff return Saturday, a season-high 34-yarder. Rubin has missed three games.

Kicker Bill Gramatica is in a three-way tie for fifth in I-AA in field goals (1.57 a game) despite not kicking one since the Sept. 30 Troy State game. Punter Devin Sanderson is ninth (42.33 yards a punt).

GIVE ME LIBERTY ... AGAIN: The Flames are scheduled to return to Raymond James Stadium in 2001, USF's first year as a full member of I-A. It will be the teams' fourth straight meeting (USF leads 3-0) and the third straight in Tampa.

BULL BITS: Fullback Otis Dixon's 3-yard touchdown run was the 18th of his career (15 rushing, three receiving), breaking his tie with Rafael Williams for the school record. ... Receiver Charlie Jackson, whose 31-yard touchdown was his first of the season, had 24 family members in attendance.

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