Notes: O-line size, hypnotism and more
EL PASO, Texas – Oregon and No. 21 USF go into Monday’s Sun Bowl ranking first and third nationally in tackles for loss, but the Bulls will have a challenge getting through the Ducks’ offensive line, which averages 315 pounds among five starters.
“They’re the biggest team we’ve played since I’ve been at South Florida. Their offensive line is huge,” defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said Saturday. “But they can’t hit what they can’t see, so we’ll be moving around a little.”
USF defensive end George Selvie led the nation with 31.5 tackles per loss, a half-tackle short of the NCAA record, but Oregon has its own pass-rushing phenom, junior Nick Reed, who ranked third in the nation with 22.5 tackles for loss and led the Pac-10 with 12 sacks.
GOOD SIGN: USF took an extra step to thank the El Paso area for its hospitality, buying three billboards on local interstates, saying “The Bulls are proud to be in El Paso” and “JOIN THE STAMPEDE”. USF went so far as to go bi-lingual with its message, which says “te deseo feliz navidad y prospero an~o nuevo” (we wish you a merry Christmas and happy new year).
The billboards cost about $10,000, but USF had one of the billboards donated and had Raymond James of Tampa help defray much of the costs. OAI Inc. of Tampa donated the vinyl used to produce all three billboards as well.
SNAP YOUR FINGERS: For the second year in a row, USF’s bowl festivities included having a hypnotist perform with several players at a dinner event, with comical results that were posted online at USF’s official site, gousfbulls.com.
USF coach Jim Leavitt, who said it has been “difficult” balancing the business of preparing for the bowl with the peripheral events that lead up to the game, didn’t sound very impressed.
“Anybody can be hypnotized. It’s just deep relaxation,” Leavitt said after Saturday’s practice. “Psychologically it’s not a big … I understand that it’s real. I’ve been through it before. It depends on whether you want to protect yourself or not. If I wanted to be hypnotized, I would have been. I just didn’t want to.”
USF’s players enjoyed watching quarterback Matt Grothe dig through teammates’ hair looking for rocks and other silliness. Leavitt?
“I wanted to get back and watch film,” he said. “I was trying to finish up the meal and get back. I didn’t want it to be too long.”
ONE GUESS: Oregon hasn’t announced which redshirt freshman will start at quarterback, either Justin Roper or Chad Kempt, but Burnham believes it will be the 6-foot-6 Roper because he’s a better passer. He said USF won’t change its defense based on the quarterback, focusing instead on running back Jonathan Stewart. “We’ve got to stop one guy,” Burnham said.
TICKETS: USF sold about 4,300 of its allotment of 8,000 tickets for Monday's game, with the remainder donated to area charities and schools, as well as military personnel at Fort Bliss in El Paso. USF's figure was higher than Oregon's, and the game is still expected to draw a crowd of about 49,000, within 1,500 of a sellout.