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NFL, MLS represented at USF lecture series

Football and futbol will be highlighted at the fourth annual USF Sport & Entertainment Lecture Series, set for Oct. 26 at 5:30 p.m. at the USF Sundome.

Tod Leiweke, COO of the National Football League; and Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber are the featured speakers at the event, sponsored by Fox Sports Florida and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Admission is free, but those interested in attending are urged to RSVP at bit.ly/lectureseries16.

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Four games in, Flowers not yet in full bloom

USF junior quarterback Quinton Flowers is on pace to run for 1,000 yards, but his completion percentage is down from last year.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

USF junior quarterback Quinton Flowers is on pace to run for 1,000 yards, but his completion percentage is down from last year.

For a guy considered the quintessential dual-threat quarterback, Quinton Flowers stands sturdily in the pocket with the best of them.

Consider the immediate wake of USF's 55-35 loss last weekend to FSU. With his back to a concrete wall in a Raymond James Stadium media room, Flowers dug in and gazed straight ahead as a swarm of TV cameras and tape recorders surrounded him on three sides.

"I feel like we lost focus and we didn't do what we were supposed to do," Flowers said regarding a prolonged funk in which his offense totaled 59 yards in nine scoreless possessions. "Me as a quarterback, like I always say, I have to keep those guys locked in, and that's something I didn't do."

Such sound bites have endeared Flowers -- a 22-year-old captain -- to his teammates. Routinely, blame is assumed, credit dispersed. Moreover, he regularly makes himself available in the aftermath of a performance, whether he sparkles or struggles.

"There is a standard I set myself at," he said recently.

One-third of the way into his junior season, Flowers -- who became a father on Monday -- still is trying to reach it. For all his mobility and moxie, he still hasn't delivered a complete game in 2016. At one juncture he prospers. The next, he presses. A deep spiral in stride will be followed by a one-hopper in the flat.

Nonetheless, Flowers is on pace to run for 1,000 yards (after gaining 991 last season). With eight touchdown passes already, he's also on track to eclipse his own single-season mark (22) set in 2015.

But his completion percentage (51.7) is down from last fall (59.1), and he already has tossed three interceptions after being picked only eight times last season.

"He's done some good things and helped our football team (and) our offense put up some good numbers," Coach Willie Taggart said. "But he can be better than what he is. ... I feel like he wasn't being himself a lot in these first four ball games, for whatever reason."

Now, as the Bulls embark on a stretch of eight conference games in a nine-week span, consistency becomes more essential. Another stagnant stretch (like the one against FSU) or early stumble (like the one at Syracuse) could prove costly.

The Bulls need their stand-up guy to step up. Even more.

"Especially with decision-making, he can make some better decisions," Taggart said. "And he can get back to being Quinton, you know, doing what he does the best."

Taggart's tone betrays nary a trace of indictment of Flowers, who still possesses the third-best pass-efficiency rating (157.3) in the American Athletic Conference and ranks third in total offense (296.2 ypg). To the contrary, the Bulls fourth-year coach comes across as more carnival barker than critic, as if trying to goad more greatness from his 5-foot-11 cornerstone.

Hey, you think Quinton's good now, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

"Quinton can be better," Taggart said.

So why the momentary lapses? …

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Unblemished: Women's soccer team perfect so far

At least one Bulls fall sports team will enter American Athletic Conference play undefeated.

The USF women’s soccer team (8-0-0) remains the only Division I program in the country with neither a loss nor a tie at this point. On Tuesday, the Bulls were 15th in the latest NSCAA poll, one spot shy of the program’s best ranking.

USF has allowed one goal in its last five matches entering Thursday’s AAC opener at home against SMU, which happens to possess the nation's top scoring offense (3.44 goals per game).

Freshman Evelyne Viens, who already has nine goals, is the only AAC player (and one of only 12 in the country) with that many. Her hat trick earlier this season against Jacksonville was the program's first in a decade.

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Quinton Flowers back at Bulls practice

FSU's Marquez White tries to make the tackle on USF quarterback Quinton Flowers during the Seminoles' 55-35 win Saturday.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

FSU's Marquez White tries to make the tackle on USF quarterback Quinton Flowers during the Seminoles' 55-35 win Saturday.

Two days after becoming a father for the first time, Bulls QB Quinton Flowers returned to practice Wednesday.

A return to form is next on the agenda.

After a dazzling opening play against FSU, in which he hit Rodney Adams in stride for an 84-yard touchdown, Flowers went 4-of-13 the rest of the way in the Bulls' 55-35 loss. His 35.7-percent completion rate was his worst in 18 career starts, and both his interceptions occurred on first down.

"It was all decision," said Coach Willie Taggart, whose team plays at Cincinnati in its American Athletic Conference opener Saturday. "It was one of those things where you make up your mind before you throw the ball and you just can't do that."

Though his season efficiency rating (157.3) ranks third in the AAC, Flowers' completion percentage (51.7) ranks last among league quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts. On the flip side, no league quarterback has more rushing yards (49 carries, 309 yards).

"I think he tried a little too hard the last game," co-offensive coordinator T.J. Weist said. "You try too hard to make plays at times, you really get off schedule from a quarterback standpoint. I think that's what he's got to do."

ALL IN THE DETAILS: First-year defensive coordinator Raymond Woodie, whose unit surrendered a program-record 478 rushing yards against FSU, said Wednesday the nuances of tackling have been a focus this week.

CB Deatrick Nichols concurred. "Oh, we've been doing tackling all week," he said. "And just going back to the basics really. ... Eyes through the thighs, everything like that."

Woodie indicated the plan is for him to remain in the coaches box, where he has spent the first four contests.

"Like I said, I've been in the box before and we're gonna keep plugging, we're gonna keep doing the little things," he said. "You do the little things, everything else is gonna work itself out."

SCALING BACK? With the Bulls down a tailback now that Darius Tice (ankle) is presumably out for the year, Weist suggested Wednesday the special-teams workload of junior D'Ernest Johnson could be scaled back.

That likely will occur on kick coverage, where Johnson has five tackles. His 493 all-purpose yards -- including 112 on punt returns -- ranks second on the team.

"He's on too many special teams," Weist said. "He's too valuable to the team. Now we're at a point where we've got to pull him back a little bit so he can be a little more valuable as a running back and some other things, as a punt returner and things like that."

ODDS AND ENDS: After being poked in the left eye against FSU, TB Marlon Mack said he'll wear a visor Saturday at Cincinnati. ... After making 10 catches his first three games, 6-foot-5 WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling was targeted once (an incompletion) against FSU. "Some things just happen like that," Weist said. "We have a plan where we try to get the ball to our playmakers, and you'd never really think -- or we'd never plan to say -- we're gonna have one wide-receiver catch the first play of the game, and five completions total." ... With Tice out, don't be shocked if freshman TB Trevon Sands gets some handoffs Saturday. "He's small (5-11, 201), but he actually likes to run like he's got the power behind him," Mack said. "He runs hard, he's fast too, and he likes to run inside."

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AAC Power Rankings, Week 4

Memphis tight end Daniel Montiel (80) scrambles for a touchdown during the Tigers' 77-3 rout of Bowling Green.

AP photo

Memphis tight end Daniel Montiel (80) scrambles for a touchdown during the Tigers' 77-3 rout of Bowling Green.

The first month of the season is somehow already in the rearview mirror. One American Athletic Conference team (USF) took its best shot at a Power Five juggernaut last week, but lost to Florida State, 55-35. Another (Memphis) will get its opportunity this week, with a trip to Ole Miss. Meanwhile, several teams are set to open league play this week as the race to the AAC title game truly begins.

1. Houston (4-0, 1-0 AAC): Amid the distractions of yet another job rumor involving Coach Tom Herman (this time it's LSU), the sixth-ranked Cougars have another quick turnaround with a revenge game against UConn on Thursday night. UH has not forgotten the 20-17 loss in November, which represents its only blemish since December 2014, a remarkable 18-1 record that has turned a once-stale program into a national title contender. -- Joseph Duarte, The Houston Chronicle

2. USF (3-1): In its much-anticipated matchup with No. 12 Florida State on the national stage, USF couldn’t stop touted Seminoles TB Dalvin Cook, who rushed for a career-high 267 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries in a 55-35 romp. Cook, who had 228 yards in three games coming in, rushed for 266 against the Bulls in Tallahassee last year. The Bulls will look to rebound in their AAC opener on Saturday night at Cincinnati. –- Jeff Odom, Tampa Bay Times

T-3. Memphis (3-0): The Tigers put on an offensive clinic Saturday against Bowling Green, as 11 different players scored TDs in a 77-3 drubbing of the Falcons. Memphis set a number of program records in the win, matching marks for points in a quarter (35) and points in a half (56). The team also set a new AAC record for points scored in a game, with QB Riley Ferguson (seven total TDs) leading the way.  -- Tom Schad, The Commercial Appeal

T-3. Navy (3-0, 2-0): The season's first bye week came at an ideal time for Navy, which was coming off two very physical football games with Connecticut and Tulane. It was a great opportunity for the Midshipmen to rest and recover, Coach Ken Niumatalolo said. Navy also got two weeks to prepare for its annual service academy showdown with Air Force, which is being held in Colorado Springs this season. The winner of the Navy-Air Force game has ultimately captured the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy the last 19 years.  -- Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group

5. Cincinnati (3-1, 0-1): The Bearcats rallied to beat rival Miami (Ohio), 27-20, in the annual Battle for the Victory Bell. UC won the Bell for the 11th straight year, the longest such streak by either school in the series. Redshirt freshman Ross Trail made his first college start at quarterback in place of injured Hayden Moore. Trail threw for 276 yards with no TDs and two interceptions, and he also rushed for a touchdown. -- Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer

T-6. East Carolina (2-2): ECU's special teams were the team's undoing in its 54-17 loss to Virginia Tech, leading to numerous short-field situations. The Pirates will open American play against UCF at noon on Saturday without a key defender in senior NT Demetri McGill, felled by a leg injury against Virginia Tech. -- Nathan Summers, The Daily Reflector

T-6. Temple (2-2): The Owls completed their non-conference schedule with a 48-20 home win over Charlotte, breaking the game open with a 28-point second quarter. After passing for 286 yards in a 34-27 loss at Penn State, Owls QB Phillip Walker completed 15 of 26 for 268 yards, two TDs and no interceptions against Charlotte. After being sacked nine times in the first three games, he wasn't sacked against the 49ers. The owls lead the AAC in red zone offense, scoring on 17 of 18 possessions (94.4 percent), with 12 TDs and five field goals.  -- Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer

8. Tulsa (3-1): After falling behind 31-0 in the first half at Fresno State on Saturday, the Golden Hurricane completed the biggest comeback victory in program history, edging the Bulldogs 48-41 in double overtime. The first 20 minutes included a lackluster performance by Tulsa, but the offense went on to deliver an impressive showing highlighted by 252 rushing yards on a whopping 46 carries by D'Angelo Brewer. QB Dane Evans accounted for five touchdowns including the winning score. -- Kelly Hines, Tulsa World

9. Connecticut (2-2, 0-1): The Huskies could be 4-0 but an inability to score late TDs (from the 1-yard line at Navy, from the 2 vs. Syracuse) and avoid explosive pass plays by the opponent leaves them at .500 heading into Thursday's game at No. 6 Houston. Noel Thomas set a career high for the third time this season last week with 14 receptions against the Orange. He's up to 40 for the season, tied for fourth in the nation. -- Mike Anthony, The Hartford Courant

10. UCF (2-2): UCF handed FIU a 53-14 rout helped by six rushing TDs last Saturday. It was the program’s first blowout win in two years and senior RB Dontravious Wilson became the first tailback since Storm Johnson to tally three rushing TDs in a game. Currently, the Knights are ranked No. 19 in total defense among all Division I programs. -- Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel

11. Tulane (2-2, 0-1): Tulane is coming off its biggest win in the Willie Fritz era after last week’s four-overtime, 41-39 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. The team’s inability to find a starting quarterback seemed to have come to an end after redshirt sophomore Glen Cuiellette came off the bench to throw for 165 yards and the first four TD passes of his career. -- Will Guillory, The Times-Picayune

12. SMU (2-2): SMU kept things interesting in the first half against TCU but faltered down the stretch in a 33-3 loss. It was another abysmal performance from the offense, which continues to struggle without starting QB Matt Davis, out for the year with a torn ACL. Redshirt freshman Ben Hicks just doesn't look comfortable in the pocket and isn't ready for the big stage. With Hicks under center, the Mustangs have struggled tremendously in the red zone.  -- EJ Holland, The Dallas Morning News

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Taggart: Defensive energy must return

FSU tailback Dalvin Cook (4) runs for first-down yardage against USF on Saturday.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

FSU tailback Dalvin Cook (4) runs for first-down yardage against USF on Saturday.

The way Willie Taggart saw it, fundamentals weren't the only thing missing from his defense's performance Saturday.

The fire was gone, too.

Energy joined execution as defensive no-shows in the Bulls' 55-35 loss to FSU, leaving USF's fourth-year coach equal parts puzzled and perturbed, and leaving his unit ranked last in the American Athletic Conference in total defense (451.5 ypg).

The 478 rushing yards amassed by FSU was the most ever surrendered by a Bulls defense, breaking the old record (Navy, 2015) by 50 yards.

"We've got to play with more energy -- more juice on the defensive side of the ball," Taggart said during his weekly press conference Tuesday.

"I don't see that out of our guys like I've seen before and we've got to get that back. I don't see guys throwing up the Bull Shark defense (gesture) and that ticks me off. We're gonna be the Bull Shark defense, let's throw them up. Let's make the plays and throw them up."

Some fans will make a correlation between that perceived lack of juice and the offseason departure of coordinator Tom Allen, arguably the staff's most high-spirited coach in 2015. Allen's replacement, veteran Taggart assistant Raymond Woodie, is less animated by nature.

Moreover, he spends game days in the coach's box, a practice Taggart said will continue.

"I don't think that necessarily had anything to do with the performance we had on the football field Saturday," Taggart said. "If it did, then (moving Woodie down) is what we'll do. That's not the issue. I think there's other things we can do better to make sure those things don't happen."

Among those other things?

"In my opinion, I feel like the No. 1 thing we have to do well that we didn't do well as a defense was tackling," FS Tajee Fullwood said Tuesday.

"We missed a lot of tackles and stuff, and that wasn't the type of defense that we want to be. During practice (Tuesday), we emphasized on tackling a lot, and that's just something we really have to get better at."

BROTHERS JOHNSON: For the second time in their lives, D'Ernest and Tshumbi Johnson will stand on opposite sidelines Saturday night. The brothers, raised in Immokalee, opposed each other for the first time last season in the Bulls' 65-27 rout of the Bearcats.

Tshumbi Johnson, a Bearcats receiver who redshirted in 2014 (D'Ernest's freshman year), had no catches. His younger sibling had 100 total yards including 71 on the ground.

"He said we came out and hit 'em in their mouth. We got the best of 'em," D'Ernest said. "He said, 'But next year we're gonna be comin' ready.'"

INJURY UPDATE: TB Darius Tice had surgery Tuesday on his broken right ankle, but Taggart said he's doubtful the senior can play again this season. A medical redshirt is off the table because Tice has played in more than 30 percent of the Bulls' regular season games. ... MLB Danny Thomas (sprained left ankle) suited up Tuesday, but wore a protective boot.

ODDS AND ENDS: The online gambling site Bovada has Taggart as a 6-1 bet to replace Les Miles as LSU coach. Houston's Tom Herman, at 5-4 odds, is the early favorite. ... Mark Neely will handle ESPNU's play-by-play of Saturday's game at Cincinnati, with Ray Bentley the analyst. ... USF is averaging 46.5 points in its last eight contests, which ranks behind only Texas Tech (52.8) and Louisville (48.9) during that stretch.

AUDIBLE: "Before, our offense wasn't having any success and we all loved our defense. Now the offense is having a little success and now we're all like, 'We suck on defense.' It is what it is. It's kind of the world we live in. But again, we can play better. We're better than what we showed on Saturday." -- Taggart

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Asiantii Woulard no longer with USF

USF reserve quarterback Asiantii Woulard (4), flanked by receiver Tyre McCants (8) and offensive tackle Billy Atterbury, no longer is part of the program.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF reserve quarterback Asiantii Woulard (4), flanked by receiver Tyre McCants (8) and offensive tackle Billy Atterbury, no longer is part of the program.

In what amounted to a surreal mic-drop moment, Bulls coach Willie Taggart ended his weekly press conference Tuesday by announcing third-string QB Asiantii Woulard no longer is with the team.

Taggart didn't elaborate, but school spokesman Brian Siegrist said Woulard, who transferred last summer from UCLA, will remain in classes for the time being.

Woulard's departure represents the latest chapter in a mostly futile collegiate odyssey for the Winter Park High alumnus, once deemed the nation's top dual-threat quarterback by ESPN. In three-plus seasons, including two at UCLA, Woulard has not taken a snap in a college game.

Originally a Bulls commitment before signing with UCLA, he left the Bruins program two summers ago and sat out last season per NCAA transfer rules.

Teeming with velocity and physical upside (6-foot-3, 215 pounds), he was projected to challenge 2015 starter Quinton Flowers for the first-team job this season, but ended spring drills third on the depth chart behind Flowers and redshirt freshman Brett Kean. A foot fracture earlier this summer further hindered him.

With Flowers absent from practice Tuesday to be with his girlfriend (who delivered a baby daughter Monday), Kean and freshman Chris Oladokun were the only quarterbacks at Tuesday's practice. …

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Know the Foe: Cincinnati

Cincinnati sophomore quarterback Hayden Moore (8) could return for this week's game against USF after being sidelined last weekend with an ankle injury.

AP photo

Cincinnati sophomore quarterback Hayden Moore (8) could return for this week's game against USF after being sidelined last weekend with an ankle injury.

A look at Cincinnati, which hosts USF on Saturday at Nippert Stadium

Nickname: Bearcats
Record: 3-1
Wins: UT Martin 28-7, Purdue 38-20, Miami (Ohio) 27-20
Loss:  Houston, 16-40
Coach: Tommy Tuberville (fourth year at Cincinnati, 28-15; 21st year overall, 158-92)
The breakdown: A year after USF's offense hung 44 first-half points on 'em, the Bearcats still are struggling to stop people, entering this game ranked 85th nationally in total defense (411.5 ypg) and 118th in third-down defense (49.2 percent). But strangely, their vulnerability has been accompanied by opportunism. UC is tied for the Division I lead with 10 interceptions, and already has forced 13 turnovers, one fewer than it forced in all of 2015. Offensively, the Bearcats lost their top five receivers from last season, but return four starters up front and sophomore QB Hayden Moore (61-of-103, 785 yards, seven TDs, three INTs), who sat out last week's win against Miami (ankle) but could return Saturday. Moore replaced Gunner Kiel after one quarter of last season's loss to the Bulls, when USF had built a 27-0 lead. Kiel currently is UC's third-stringer.

Odds and ends: Bulls first-year offensive line coach Darren Hiller spent the previous three seasons in the same job for Tuberville at Cincinnati. ... Redshirt freshman CB Christian Angulo (East Bay) is the only bay area product on the Bearcats' roster. ... The pugilistic and presidential nature of UC's roster is glaring. It includes S Mike Tyson (who had three interceptions at Purdue) and DL Lyndon Baines Johnson Jr.

Willie Taggart's take: "Very athletic football team. They're fast, well-coached. I look at their defense compared to last year, I just think they're so much faster and athletic on the defensive side of the ball."

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Taggart says players, coaches must improve after FSU loss

USF linebacker Nigel Harris (57) closes in on FSU tailback Dalvin Cook during the Seminoles' 55-35 win Saturday.

MONICA HERNDON | Times

USF linebacker Nigel Harris (57) closes in on FSU tailback Dalvin Cook during the Seminoles' 55-35 win Saturday.

Two days after his team's 20-point loss to FSU, Bulls coach Willie Taggart said no significant changes are on the immediate horizon, but performance -- by players and coaches -- must improve.

"We've got to be better at what we do," Taggart said Monday on the American Athletic Conference weekly coaches teleconference. "And we've got to make sure as coaches, we're putting our guys in the right position to be successful."

As a result of the loss, coupled with Syracuse's quick start against the Bulls (17 first-quarter points) two Saturdays ago, USF is ranked 100th among Division I teams in total defense (451.5 ypg) and tied for 118th in run defense (240.3).

No scheme adjustment -- from a 4-2-5 to a standard 4-3 -- seemed to work against FSU, which dominated the line of scrimmage and exploited USF's shoddy tackling. Offensively, USF totaled 450 yards, but gained 3 or fewer yards on first down (or turned the ball over) 16 of a possible 27 times.

Additionally, junior Marquez Valdes-Scantling, the team's second-leading receiver entering the game, didn't have a catch.

"All of it's correctable, we've got to get it corrected," said Taggart, whose team travels to 3-1 Cincinnati this weekend. "A lot of it is fundamentals, and then...as coaches we've got to make sure we're putting our guys in the best position they can be in so they can make the plays they need to make."

INJURY UPDATE: Taggart said Monday that backup MLB Danny Thomas, on crutches following Saturday's game, is nursing a sprained ankle. TB Marlon Mack, who exited in the third quarter after getting poked in the eye, is fine.

Meantime, Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said he's hopeful of getting a handful of injured starters back this week including QB Hayden Moore (ankle), who sat out the Bearcats' 27-20 victory Saturday against Miami (Ohio).

MACK CLOSING IN: Mack, who ran for 42 yards on 12 carries against FSU before exiting, needs 95 yards Saturday at Cincinnati to surpass Andre Hall (2,731 yards) as the Bulls' career rushing leader.

Saturday's contest will be Mack's 28th at USF. He missed one game due to injury last season and the Northern Illinois contest (concussion  protocol) two weeks ago. Hall, who played only two seasons at USF after transferring from junior college, amassed his total in only 23 contests.

ODDS AND ENDS: Saturday's game at Cincinnati will be televised on ESPNU. ... The Bulls' Oct. 8 homecoming game against East Carolina will kick off at noon and be shown on ESPNews, the AAC confirmed Monday. ... In their latest bowl projections, ESPN's Mark Schlabach and Brett McMurphy both predict an N.C. State-USF matchup in the St. Petersburg Bowl. ... The Bulls still rank 21st nationally in total offense (501.5 ypg) and 12th in rushing (257.8). ... Though Quinton Flowers was sacked three times Saturday, USF still is allowing only 1.5 sacks a game, tied with Houston for least allowed in the conference.

AUDIBLE: "I know we heal differently, but I don't know if we heal that different." -- Taggart, when asked if there was a chance TB Darius Tice (broken ankle) can return this season

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Actual turnout for FSU-USF exceeds 52,000

The 52,485 fans who actually came through the turnstiles for Saturday's FSU-USF game at Raymond James Stadium represented the seventh-largest home crowd in USF history.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

The 52,485 fans who actually came through the turnstiles for Saturday's FSU-USF game at Raymond James Stadium represented the seventh-largest home crowd in USF history.

The 52,485 fans who actually came through the turnstiles for Saturday's FSU-USF game at Raymond James Stadium represented the seventh-largest home crowd in USF history.

Actual attendance was provided Sunday by the Tampa Sports Authority. It was the largest home crowd to witness a Bulls game since FSU's last trip to Tampa, a 30-17 'Noles victory before 58,808 on Sept. 29, 2012.

Going by announced attendance (tickets distributed), Saturday's crowd of 61,665 ranked sixth for a Bulls home contest.

Top USF home crowds (actual attendance)
61,664 (West Virginia, 2007)
58,808 (FSU, 2012)
56,762 (Miami, 2009)
56,283 (UCF, 2007)
55,073 (Cincinnati, 2009)
52,627 (Kansas, 2008)
52,485 (FSU, 2016)

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Full disclosure: My latest AP football ballot

While the wackiness of the season's inaugural weeks caused me to abandon most of my balloting principles, a relatively stable weekend has resulted in a moment or two of enlightenment.

Time to embrace conviction, and re-establish those principles, regardless of the fallout.

Henceforth, I'm going to make concerted efforts not to penalize teams for winning in conference or being idle, and to lend minimal credence to style points. This is, after all, the 85-scholarship era. A win is a win.

These aren't hard-and-fast rules, mind you. Circumstances won't allow them to be rigidly observed. But they'll remain stern personal guidelines from here on.

With that said, my latest ballot:

1. Louisville
2. Alabama
3. Ohio State
4. Clemson
5. Houston
6. Michigan
7. Stanford
8. Washington
9. Texas A&M
10. Wisconsin
11. FSU
12. Nebraska
13. Tennessee
14. Baylor
15. Michigan State
16. Utah
17. Ole Miss
18. Texas
19. TCU
20. Miami
21. Arkansas
22. Georgia
23. Florida
24. San Diego State
25. North Carolina

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FSU-USF: Click here for coverage

USF coach Willie Taggart exits the field following the Bulls' 55-35 loss Saturday to FSU.

CHRIS URSO | Times

USF coach Willie Taggart exits the field following the Bulls' 55-35 loss Saturday to FSU.

We've got a smorgasbord of stuff from today's proceedings at Raymond James Stadium. Columns, casualty reports, game stories, game notes -- it's all here.

First, the story from FSU's 55-35 triumph against USF, staged before the sixth-largest announced home audience in Bulls history. Additionally, Times columnist Tom Jones says the Bulls aren't quite ready for the big stage -- yet.

Elsewhere, Martin Fennelly writes on the resurgence of 'Noles TB Dalvin Cook. Our Bulls notebook covers -- among other items -- a potential career-ending injury to highly popular USF senior Darius Tice.

Times correspondent Jeff Odom notes a few things you might have missed on the ABC broadcast (or in person). Uur newest staffer, Aaron Torres, chronicles a day of atonement -- sort of -- for FSU's defense.

And for good measure, how 'bout a 'Noles-Bulls photo gallery.

 

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FSU-USF notes: Tice suffers apparent broken ankle

USF's D'Ernest Johnson, who finished with three rushing touchdowns Saturday, is taken down by FSU's Nate Andrews.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

USF's D'Ernest Johnson, who finished with three rushing touchdowns Saturday, is taken down by FSU's Nate Andrews.

With eight regular season games remaining, the Bulls' tailback depth will be put to the test.

One might argue it passed its first significant one Saturday.

Senior TB Darius Tice's career came to an apparent end late in the third quarter when he suffered what is feared to be a broken right ankle -- according to Coach Willie Taggart -- following an 11-yard reception over the middle. With Marlon Mack also sidelined after being poked in the eye, junior D'Ernest Johnson assumed the rushing load.

He finished with 82 yards and three touchdowns on eight carries. Tice, one of the Bulls' more gregarious personalities, finishes his college career -- barring an unforeseen recovery -- with 874 rushing yards and five TDs.

"He keeps a smile on everybody's face," said QB Quinton Flowers, who competed against Tice at the prep level in Miami. "He cracks jokes, but when it's time to get serious, he's got some things to say and you always listen to him. It may hurt us a lot. He's going to be on our side like always."
 
Elsewhere, backup MLB Danny Thomas was spotted on crutches after the game, but the extent of his injury wasn't revealed. Taggart could provide an update Monday.

NO ONSIDE: Taggart surprised many fans -- and even the ABC broadcast crew -- by not opting for an onside kick after the Bulls cut their deficit to 55-35 with 7:39 to go.

"I thought we'd get the ball back and get some field position," Taggart said. "We were down three touchdowns and I wanted to see if we could get us a stop and some field position and get the ball back to our offense and score."

Didn't happen. FSU ran out the clock, driving inside the USF red zone on 13 plays as time expired.

"If we scored again we probably would've (kicked onside)," Taggart said.

BUSTING A BIG ONE: Flowers' 84-yard TD pass to Rodney Adams on Saturday's first play from scrimmage was the longest allowed by FSU since 2005.

"I was thinking it went just like we drew it up and it worked for us," Taggart said. "We were excited and it's what we wanted to do, but we didn't expect to come back and give up a (75)-yard touchdown run (to Dalvin Cook) the next play."

Adams now has scored 17 TDs (11 receiving, five rushing, one kick return) in the Bulls' past 13 contests.

ODDS AND ENDS: USF has scored 184 points so far, tying the 2011 team for the most in the season's first four games. ... USF fell to 12-4 under Taggart when running for at least 200 yards. The Bulls ran 290 Saturday. ... The Bulls have scored at least 35 points in eight consecutive games, extending their program record.

AUDIBLE: "If we sit here and dwell on this game, we're gonna go up to Cincinnati (next weekend) and they're gonna kill us," Bulls MLB Auggie Sanchez

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Dozens of 2017, '18 prospects expected at FSU-USF

Tampa Catholic cornerback Bentlee Sanders (20) is among dozens of recruits expected at Saturday's FSU-USF game.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Tampa Catholic cornerback Bentlee Sanders (20) is among dozens of recruits expected at Saturday's FSU-USF game.

Saturday's FSU-USF contest, arguably the biggest in Bulls history, naturally also shapes up as their most significant of the year from a recruiting standpoint.

Several dozen Bulls prospects, including many from the Class of 2018, are expected at the noon game at Raymond James Stadium.

Two of them -- Jesuit's Malik Davis and Cambridge Christian OL/DL Richard Gouraige -- were ranked No. 1 and 10, respectively, in the HomeTeam 100 released this summer.

The Bulls currently have 17 non-binding commitments from the Class of '17, 14 of whom committed during a two-week window in the summer.

Per 247Sports, that class currently ranks fourth among American Athletic Conference schools.

Here are the prospects whose attendance Saturday has been confirmed. We'll add more as we learn them. …

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Bulls, Knights recognize "War on I-4"

The official logo for the "War on I-4," a year-long competition (in various sports) between USF and UCF.

Photo provided by USF

The official logo for the "War on I-4," a year-long competition (in various sports) between USF and UCF.

As of today, the "War on I-4" as been upgraded from mere nickname to official name in terms of the UCF-USF rivalry.

The schools have announced the "War on I-4" will involve a scored year-long competition between the schools in multiple sports. It starts immediately, with a Bulls-Knights volleyball matchup tonight, and men's soccer Saturday night. Both contests are in Orlando.

The scoring system (outlined below) awards points to each school for a victory against the other. For cross country, golf and track and field (which do not have head-to-head meetings), the school that records the best finish in each conference championship for those sports will receive points.

The winning university will take possession of a large trophy shaped like the I-4 road sign, to be displayed on their campus for the following year. The winner of the annual Thanksgiving weekend football game wins a separate, similarly-shaped "War On I-4" trophy.

"This rivalry series will serve as a fun and exciting way for USF's students, alumni and fans to share their passion and enthusiasm for their school while providing our student-athletes with a college experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives," USF athletic director Mark Harlan said in a news release.

Added UCF counterpart Danny White: "UCF’s teams, fans, students and alumni truly enjoy this rivalry. Everyone involved looks forward to these matchups, so extending the rivalry to an official year-long competition should generate even more interest and excitement."

In the event of a tie at the end of the school year, the performances of both programs in the annual NCAA Graduation Success Rate will serve as the tie-breaker.

"War on I-4" points system
Sport: Total points
Baseball: 6 (One point for six regular season games)
Men's Basketball: 6 (Three points for each of two regular season games)
Football: 6 (One regular season game)
Men's Golf: 6 (Conference championship higher finisher)
Men's Soccer: 6 (One regular season game)
Men's Tennis: 6 (Dual competition, or higher finisher at conference)
Women's Basketball: 6 (Three points for each of two regular season games)
Women's CC: 6 (Conference championship, higher finisher)
Women's Golf: 6 (Conference championship, higher finisher)
Women's Soccer: 6 (One regular season game)
Softball: 6 (Two points for each of three regular season games)
Women's Tennis: 6 (Dual competition or higher finisher at conference)
Women's T&F: 6 (Three points indoor/three points outdoor conference championships)
Volleyball: 6 (Three points for each of two regular season matches)
* Note: UCF doesn't have men's track and field, men's cross country or sailing; USF doesn't have rowing

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