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USF seniors finish the way they began

A 59-0 win over Austin Peay is similar to the rout in the first game in 1997.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 19, 2000


TAMPA -- Twenty-two seniors who were in uniform as freshmen when the South Florida football program began playing games four seasons ago ended their careers Saturday nearly identically to the way they began.

In 1997, they helped commence the program with an 80-3 win over Kentucky Wesleyan. Saturday, they ended their tenure with a 59-0 victory over Austin Peay, closing out their college football experience exactly the way they had hoped.

"To start the game, we just kept telling ourselves we wanted to finish like we started," senior center Joey Sipp said. "We didn't want to let the emotion get in the way of that."

South Florida (7-4) said goodbye to its seniors and Division I-AA football Saturday in front of an announced 23,390 at Raymond James Stadium. The Bulls become a I-A independent next season.

The senior class, 14 of whom had been with the program since its inception, leaves the school with an 18-2 record at Raymond James Stadium, having gone undefeated at home this season.

"I don't know if there is a group of seniors around that could have done what these guys did," South Florida coach Jim Leavitt said.

The Bulls dominated Saturday's game from the opening possession, earning a 21-point lead after the first quarter and scoring on every possession but one in the first half.

By halftime, South Florida led 38-0 and it didn't get any better for Austin Peay (2-9). The Bulls were so in control of the game that backup quarterback Mike Usry was in the lineup before halftime. By the end, the Bulls had used three quarterbacks, including starter Marquel Blackwell and backup Kevin Patullo.

Saturday's game included record-breaking performances by three seniors. Kicker Bill Gramatica set a school record and tied an NCAA Division I-AA mark with a 63-yard field goal, wide receiver Scott McCready became the school single-season reception leader with 37, and defensive back Anthony Henry intercepted a pass from Austin Peay quarterback John Shephard with 4:39 left in the second quarter, tying teammate Roy Manns for single-season interceptions (5).

With the backups getting playing time, freshman running back Vince Brewer rushed for a game-high 105 yards on 14 carries, including a 5-yard touchdown run with 7:47 left to give the Bulls a 59-0 lead.

South Florida generated 540 yards of offense, including 298 rushing, while holding Austin Peay to 117 total yards. The Bulls began their scoring barrage three minutes into the game with a 15-yard touchdown run by senior Rafael Williams for a 7-0 lead.

South Florida scored on its next possession on a 3-yard run by senior Otis Dixon.

After the Governors went three and out on their next possession, South Florida struck quickly: 7 seconds, 41 yards, one play.

Blackwell hooked up with McCready for a touchdown to give the Bulls a 21-0 lead with 2:30 left in the first quarter.

A non-scholarship I-AA independent, Austin Peay just didn't have the manpower or the talent to hang with South Florida.

The Bulls opened the second-quarter scoring with Gramatica's 63-yard field goal, taking a 24-0 lead with 12:07 left.

"It was incredible," Gramatica said.

The Bulls scored twice more before the half ended: a 22-yard run by Leon Matthews and a 10-yard run by Williams (aided by Henry's interception).

The touchdowns came less frequently in the second half. South Florida scored on a 67-yard pass from Patullo to Hugh Smith with 3:02 left in the third quarter, the first touchdown for Patullo.

"I threw the ball and I didn't really see what happened," said Patullo, a redshirt freshman. "I got spun around and hit the ground laying face down so I couldn't see. I heard the crowd cheer ... I got up and looked at the replay board and I saw he scored so I ran down there to him. When I got into the end zone, it hit me that I had my first touchdown pass."

The Bulls closed out the game with two more touchdowns. Freshman cornerback Kenny Robinson intercepted a pass with 13:38 left and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown and Brewer scored with 7:47 left.

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