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Blackwell's INT-free streak ends


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 12, 2000

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- The phenomenal passing streak South Florida quarterback Marquel Blackwell had put together over the past four games came to an end Saturday at Middle Tennessee State.

Blackwell had thrown 111 passes without an interception before he was picked off by defensive back Joe McClendon with 3:26 left in the first quarter.

Before Saturday, Blackwell's last interception was Oct. 7 against Southern Miss.

TIES THAT BIND: Joe Wickline is the offensive line coach at Middle Tennessee State, but he knows a thing or two about USF and football in the state of Florida. Wickline is a graduate of St. Petersburg Northeast High and his father was a long-time coach at St. Petersburg Boca Ciega.

Now in his second year with MTSU, Wickline also is the recruiting coordinator for the Blue Raiders. He said he hopes to eventually focus his recruiting efforts on the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. MTSU currently has five players from Florida on its roster.

"We're going to try to do some stuff down there," Wickline said. "But really, we have had some success in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and we're starting to get into Kentucky. But we're hoping to start looking at that area and try to get some players out of there.

"We're not going to recruit that area as heavy as some of the others, but more situationally. (The top colleges in Florida) are going to get their pick of players, the ones that they feel are the best. But there are still some good players there to pick from."

A FRESH START: USF freshman Kenny Robinson started at nickel back, marking his first career start.

BACK IN GOOD FORM: After missing or playing sparingly in several games because of an ankle sprain, freshman DeAndrew Rubin is once again making his mark as a kick returner. Rubin returned a kick 77 yards the longest in his career.

SIGN OF THE TIMES: Trailing 38-3 late in the third quarter, the Bulls put together their only touchdown drive, but even there they struggled. It began on their 31-yard line, but the Bulls were hit with three consecutive holding calls, leaving them with third and 40 on the 19-yard line.

Then Middle Tennessee was hit with a face-mask call, giving the Bulls an automatic first down. South Florida went on to score on a 4-yard run by Blackwell, culminating a 19-play drive that lasted 8:42.

A SOBERING MOMENT: The game halted when MTSU redshirt freshman Brandon Westbrook was injured and taken off the field on a stretcher. His mother walked off the field in tears, consoled by several Blue Raiders players.

The game was delayed for several minutes while medical personnel attended to Westbrook, an offensive lineman who was taken to a local hospital for X-rays on his right leg. He broke a bone and is out for the season, the MTSU sports information staff said.

RECORD DAY: MTSU quarterback Wes Counts became the school's all-time leader in pass completions. The junior completed 15 passes to give him 510 career, breaking the record held by Kelly Holcomb (501). Counts also had his third consecutive 200-yard passing game.

With 110 yards rushing, sophomore running back Dwone Hicks has 1,269 on the season, third-most in school history and most for a sophomore. He also scored the first and second touchdown receptions of his career.

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