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Adjustments pay off for Bulls

By ANTONYA ENGLISH and SHARON GINN

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 30, 2000


STORRS, Conn. -- Coach Jim Leavitt has been so concerned about South Florida's lack of execution in the fourth quarter that he made changes to the practice schedule. Saturday, the extra work paid off as the Bulls scored 14 points in the final 10 minutes for a 21-13 win against Connecticut.

"We haven't been a good fourth-quarter team," Leavitt said. "We've been talking a lot about that. We even changed our entire practice schedule the last two weeks to show fourth quarter at the end of the script to get our guys thinking about it. We did a decent job of that."

Leavitt's next project: the run defense. The Bulls shut down all the Huskies save one -- freshman Evan Benson, who had 119 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.

Leavitt said such an effort won't be good enough against I-AA Western Kentucky on Saturday. The Hilltoppers average 284.6 rushing yards (5 yards a carry) compared with 86.6 passing yards. They are led by running back DeWayne Gallishaw, who averages 74.1 yards, but they spread the ball around. Five others average 25 rushing yards or more.

Formerly independent Western Kentucky (8-0), now a member of the Ohio Valley Conference, clinched the conference title and a playoff berth Saturday with a 34-12 victory against Eastern Illinois.

"Our run defense has got to get better," Leavitt said. "We're playing one of the best running teams in I-AA. ... They're a powerhouse."

NO MISTAKE: Some watching the game may have thought the Bulls made a mistake when they were hit with a delay-of-game penalty as kicker Bill Gramatica prepared for a 62-yard field goal with just more than two minutes left in the second quarter.

According to Leavitt, it wasn't a mistake.

"Do you know why at 62 yards I didn't hurry everybody up?" Leavitt said. "Because in my mind ... I wanted to milk the clock. If everything looked right, we were going to go, fine. If we were going to get delay of game, I wanted the delay of game anyway. So by doing that, everybody thought "Oh, you're not getting your guys out,' when really I was hoping that would happen. So when we got the penalty, that was great.

"Of course Bill didn't hit it, he missed it, but we did the right thing. We were lucky they didn't get any points on that."

After the delay-of-game call, Gramatica shanked a punt that went 12 yards, giving the Huskies a first down on their 38-yard line.

HOW'S THAT FOR HOMECOMING?: Cornerback Anthony Henry was a little miffed the Bulls were scheduled as Connecticut's homecoming opponent, and thought they had something to prove. Henry did his part by getting his school-record ninth interception (he and free safety Roy Manns had shared the record).

"It felt like if you schedule a team for homecoming, you're supposed to get an easy win," Henry said. "So this game was big for us."

Senior center Joey Sipp agreed, saying the win signified the program is on the right track.

"This is great; this is what this program is striving for," Sipp said. " ... We've just got to keep improving."

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