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Special delivery for former Bulls RB Crossley

Just this afternoon, I wrote down the name of former USF running back Clenton Crossley, who I covered on my first year on the Bulls beat in 2004. Crossley was a great kid -- always referred to by his teammates as "Boobie" -- and I was checking his stats as I confirmed that current senior Demetris Murray is in position to become the first Bulls running back to top 500 rushing yards in three consecutive seasons.

As it turns out, Wednesday was a huge day for Crossley, whose wife Candace gave birth to their second daughter, Catelyn, just before 4 a.m. Wednesday morning -- in their car on the shoulder of I-275 on the way to the hospital. Here's the full story from the Times' Robbyn Mitchell -- great news that mother and baby are doing well, and we're extra happy for Crossley, who now works as a youth caseworker.

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WR Dunkley enters pre-trial intervention program

USF sophomore receiver Chris Dunkley, suspended indefinitely from the Bulls after his arrest in September on a domestic violence battery charge, agreed Monday to enter into a domestic violence intervention program for first-time offenders.

Under the agreement, Dunkley will have no contact with the alleged victim, will attend at least 26 weeks of batterer intervention counseling and will complete 12 months of supervision without committing any additional crimes. Upon completion of those requirements, the misdemeanor charge against him will be dropped by prosecutors.

Dunkley, who sat out the 2011 season after transferring from Florida, caught a 52-yard touchdown pass in USF's win against Nevada on Sept. 8, but has been suspended since the arrest, which took place hours after USF's loss to Florida State on Sept. 29. A USF athletics spokesman said Tuesday that Dunkley's status with the team has not changed.

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Injuries have USF's depth dwindling at receiver

Here are Wednesday's practice notes from Times correspondent Joe Polito ...

TAMPA -- Injuries to Andre Davis, Derrick Hopkins and D’Vario Montgomery have forced the USF offense to add new names to its two-deep depth chart.

"David Aristil, Jordan Duval, Clinton Jones –- probably not a lot of names that the everyday Bulls fans have heard a lot of … they’re all on the depth chart right now,” coach Skip Holtz said.

Holtz said that veterans Victor Marc, Deonte Welch and Terrence Mitchell will lead the Bulls at receiver, adding that he was pleased with Davis’ return to practice after missing Tuesday with a knee.

“Andre Davis was out there today, didn’t go the entire time but did what he could do, and I thought practice gave me a lot of hope that he’ll be able to play in this football game,” he said.

READY TO STEP UP: Though he said he’s “devastated” about losing teammate Lindsey Lamar for the rest of the season, junior RB Marcus Shaw said he’s prepared for the increased workload. “I’m excited, I’m jacked — I’m ready,” he said. “I’ve been ready for a long time.” …

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Shelton: No answer for Bulls' late-game collapses

timesfront.jpgTimes columnist Gary Shelton writes today on the front of the Times sports section (see left) on the way USF's football games -- and its 2012 season -- keep following the same sad pattern in the final two minutes of ballgames the Bulls were in position to win. "It defies explanation," he writes. "The Bulls do not finish. They do not close. They do not shut out the lights. When the game is on the line, they rarely slow anyone down." Here's the full story.


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Notes: Heath excited about more scoring in 2012-13

TAMPA -- Coming off a breakout season and the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament wins, here are four words you didn't hear about USF men's basketball in 2011-12: Stan Heath's uptempo offense.

The Bulls were many things last spring -- defensive grinders, for sure -- but high-scoring? USF averaged just 59 points per game, lowest in the Big East, but used the stingiest defense in Big East history to collect 22 wins, earning its first NCAA berth in 20 years.

Point guard phenom Anthony Collins is back as a sophomore, but an influx of solid perimeter scorers and a lack of true centers will have Heath more likely to push the ball, utilizing his team's speed and offering a more entertaining brand of basketball.

"We had a nice formula for success last year. Now we have to tweak it," Heath said Tuesday, eager for his team's exhibition opener Monday against Division II Eckerd. "We don't have a choice. We have to play more of a speed game. That's how our team is built. It's going to be different, but we still have to guard. I think our scores will be up higher." …

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Video: Heath eager for exhibition opener Monday

We'll have a post up shortly, but here's men's basketball coach Stan Heath talking to reporters on Tuesday -- his team opens its 2012-13 season on Monday with an exhibition against Division II Eckerd College in the newly renovated Sun Dome. Here's what he had to say ...

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USF offense to be shorthanded vs. UConn

TAMPA -- USF's offense will line up Saturday against Connecticut without key players injured in Saturday's loss to Syracuse, with at least three out and others uncertain as the Bulls try to end a six-game losing streak.

Leading rusher Lindsey Lamar was sidelined with a fractured collarbone Saturday, and on Tuesday, coach Skip Holtz said two more regulars -- senior TE Evan Landi (ankle) and junior WR Derrick Hopkins (knee) won't play against the Huskies. Both were on crutches as they watched Tuesday's practice, with Landi wearing a cast on his injured foot.

Starting right guard Danous Estenor watched practice with a boot on his injured right ankle and is "doubtful", according to Holtz, and two more receivers -- sophomore Andre Davis (knee) and freshman D'Vario Montgomery (shoulder) did not practice, leaving the Bulls with three healthy scholarship receivers.

"It was a costly game from an injury standpoint," said Holtz, whose team played Saturday without its most experienced offensive lineman, senior guard Mark Popek, who is still not practicing and had a boot on his injured ankle Tuesday. …

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Friday: Chat live with Greg Auman, noon

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Notes: With 5 FGs, Bonani gets Big East honor

USF senior Maikon Bonani, who set a school record with five field goals in Saturday's 37-36 loss to Syracuse, was honored Monday as the Big East's Special Teams Player of the Week.

Bonani, whose kicks included a season-long 47-yarder, had the most points (18) scored by a Big East kicker in any game this season. His 5-for-5 effort came after he had gone 6-for-8 on field goals over the first seven games of the season. His previous career high had been three field goals, accomplished seven times in his four years as the Bulls' kicker.

NO-SHOWS: The announced attendance for Saturday's game -- based on tickets distributed -- was 38,562, but the actual turnstile attendance for USF's annual homecoming game was just 23,833, according to the Tampa Sports Authority. That's a difference of nearly 15,000 tickets, suggesting that nearly 40 percent of the tickets distributed weren't used at the game.   …

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Video: Holtz talks about injuries from Syracuse loss

Here's the first few minutes of Skip Holtz's interview Sunday night -- he addresses the injuries to Lindsey Lamar and other key starters that could impact Saturday's game at Connecticut. I'll have more clips up later tonight -- no decision yet on what if any defensive changes will be made.

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Clavicle injury likely ends Lamar's senior season

TAMPA -- USF senior Lindsey Lamar, who sparked the Bulls offense this season in his electric return to running back, has likely played his final snaps as a Bull after fracturing his clavicle (collarbone) during Saturday's loss to Syracuse.

Lamar, who spent Saturday night at Tampa General Hospital, suffered the injury early in the fourth quarter and had difficulty breathing, prompting a trip to Tampa General Hospital, where he stayed until late Sunday afternoon.

"I hate it. He's really been coming along, been developing every week," said Holtz, who said Lamar underwent a nonsurgical procedure to set the clavicle at the hospital. "It'll be a blow to us offensively, with the productivity he's had in the last two weeks, rushing for (255) yards. We're definitely going to miss that production, and we're going to have to make it up." …

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Full disclosure: My AP Top 25 ballot

Wild week to fill out a ballot, with four undefeated teams losing and nine ranked teams falling overall -- that allows for shakeups throughout the poll.

-- I've made a big move at the top, sliding Notre Dame and Kansas State ahead of Oregon. Seems like a tough move when the Ducks continue to be as dominant as they've been, but to this point, they haven't faced nearly as tough a schedule as the Irish or Wildcats. I see Notre Dame with wins against Oklahoma and Stanford (and three other top 50 teams), and Kansas State beating Oklahoma, Texas Tech and West Virginia. Oregon hasn't beaten a team with less than three losses, though the Arizona win is gaining value, for sure. If the Ducks continue to dominate with USC, Stanford and Oregon State in its final four games, they can move back up. …

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Video: Holtz talks after Bulls' loss to Syracuse

Here's postgame video from after USF's 37-36 last-minute loss to Syracuse, the Bulls' sixth loss in a row. First, opening comments from head coach Skip Holtz.

Here is defensive coordinator Chris Cosh, whose defense has lost leads by giving up 75-yard touchdown drives in the final minutes in three of these last six losses.

Offensive coordinator Todd Fitch talks about his unit putting up 36 points, but also that they committed the game's only turnover and settled for field goals five times in the loss.

And finally, back to Holtz -- here's him answering questions, especially about the needs to change things on defense after another late-game collapse.

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Lamar to hospital with chest injury, 4 other injured

TAMPA -- As if taking a sixth consecutive loss weren't problem enough, USF left Saturday night's game with Syracuse with injuries to five key players, potentially impacting the season's final four games.

Most concerning was senior RB Lindsey Lamar, who rushed for a career-high 145 yards but had to be taken to Tampa General Hospital with what coach Skip Holtz described as a chest injury. Holtz did not know the extent of Lamar's injury, but said he was "definitely concerned" and that Lamar had issues with his breathing before leaving the stadium.

Lamar wasn't alone -- senior TE Evan Landi missed most of the game with an ankle injury, junior WR Derrick Hopkins was on crutches after taking a hit to his left knee in the first half, junior DE Ryne Giddins aggravated a shoulder injury and senior OG Danous Estenor left the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.

"It was costly from an injury standpoint," Holtz said. "As disappointed and hurt as everybody is right now with the loss, my thoughts and prayers are definitely with Lindsey Lamar that he is OK." …

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Bulls blow 20-point lead, fall to Syracuse, 37-36

TAMPA -- This might have been the cruelest collapse of all for USF football.

Staked to a 23-3 halftime lead on Syracuse, the Bulls saw that disappear in just 10 minutes, but after rallying for a 33-24 lead, USF's defense did it again, giving up yet another last-minute drive to steal victory away. Syracuse went 75 yards in the final 1:23 without any time outs, with Ryan Nassib connecting with Alec Lemon for a 1-yard touchdown with three seconds left for a 37-36 Orange win.

"I'm rather speechless on this one," said coach Skip Holtz, whose team is the only one in the nation this season to lose a 20-point second-half lead, according to ESPN. "I wish I could stand up here and say a bunch of things to make it better. Unfortunately, I can't."

The loss is USF's sixth in a row -- extending the school record -- and the third in which the defense has given up a 75-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes to give up the lead. USF (2-6, 0-4 in Big East) had beaten Syracuse (4-4, 3-1) in six of seven previous meetings. …

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