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Video: USF-Houston preview

Times beat reporter Joey Knight previews Thursday night's American Athletic Conference game between USF and Houston in this video report.

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Men's soccer: Seniors exit Corbett in style

TAMPA – Stiven Salinas’ first-half goal was all the USF men’s soccer team needed to defeat Detroit Mercy 1-0 Tuesday night.

The match, before an announced Corbett Stadium crowd of 863, was the home finale for eight USF seniors, each of whom was honored before the game in an on-field ceremony.

"They've been a special group," Coach George Keifer said. "I got a little choked up. I normally don't because we've spent a lot of time together and I think they're doing an excellent job leading the team this year.

"That's the tough part of being a college coach. You always want a little bit longer with your seniors. They're not just good players, but excellent students too."

USF (6-3-7) peppered Detroit goalkeeper Natha Steinwascher throughout the game, finishing with 20 shots. But Salinas’ tally was the lone attempt to find the back of the net.

It came in the 17th minute, when Salinas managed to skip past a defender before blasting a shot into the top right corner of the net from 18 yards.

"It's hard to describe only one thing, because there’s so many positive things we did as a group," said Salinas, who dedicated the goal to fellow senior and team captain Ricardo Webb, who suffered an injury in a 4-1 win Saturday against SMU.

"Definitely I’ll miss our energy and the love we have for one another and how much we care for each other." …

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Practice report: USF hopes to shine, not slip, on ESPN stage

Tuesday's practice report from Times correspondent Jeff Odom:  …

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Practice report: Shaw has 'great chance' of playing at Houston

TAMPA -- Coach Willie Taggart on Monday issued his most encouraging report on the status of top rusher Marcus Shaw since the sophomore went down with a hamstring injury against Cincinnati three weeks ago.

"He has a great chance," Taggart said when asked if Shaw will play Thursday night at Houston. "Marcus ran really well (at Sunday's practice). If there's not any setback, there's a great chance for him to play."

Shaw (86 carries, 552 yards) was seen running, cutting and accelerating during Monday's individual drills, which are regularly open to the media.

His return could jump-start a parched offense that has gone 12 consecutive quarters without a touchdown. By contrast, Houston (6-1, 3-0) is the only Division I program to score in every quarter it has played (28) this year.

"I don't want to take anything away from (Mike) Pierre or (Darius) Tice," Bulls LT Darrell Williams said. "But throughout the first four games you saw the production that Shaw was giving us."

DUAL THREATS? Taggart wasn't bluffing when he said immediately after Saturday's 34-3 loss to Louisville that he might employ some players both ways to provide a spark to his anemic offense.

On Monday, he reiterated the notion. "Yeah, there are some guys on (defense) that can do it," he said. "I'd prefer not to say which guys, but there are some guys on there that I know can do it."

FRESH(MAN) FACES: Thanks to fate, and the evolution of high school passing games universally, the prevailing story line of Thursday night's USF-Houston game is fresh out of Fort Lauderdale.

And almost fresh out of puberty.

The Cougars' John O'Korn (St. Thomas Aquinas) and USF's Mike White (University) -- both rangy true freshmen -- start for their teams before an ESPN audience. The matchup comes less than 11 months after both led their respective high school teams to state titles.

"I think the coaching and schemes in high school are so much more advanced than what they used to be, just like they are in college, just like they are in the NFL," USF offensive coordinator Walt Wells said.

"And I think there's been so much video and so much TV and so many camps and so many different things -- 7-on-7s -- that kids are exposed to, that I don't think it necessarily just blows them away."

O'Korn, summoned when Cougars starter David Piland sustained a concussion in Week Two, is 4-1 as a starter with 1,858 yards, 19 TDs and seven interceptions.

White, by contrast, made his debut (1-for-2, 5 yards) in the fourth quarter Saturday. His inaugural start comes on a short week, on the road against an opponent with a conference-best 16 interceptions.

"It's been a challenge for us throughout this entire year. I don't think just by going on the road and being a short week it's going to be that much more of a challenge," Taggart said.

"We're trying to find some offense and we're trying to find a way to spark it and hopefully Mike can help us with that. We feel we can go nowhere but up offensively."

ODDS AND ENDS: Wells said QB Steven Bench, replaced by White after his fourth-quarter pick-six against Louisville, remains in the Bulls' plans. With senior Bobby Eveld (high-ankle sprain) on crutches, Bench is the backup for now. ... Houston coach Tony Levine said he evaluated White, and made a small degree of contact with him, during White's senior year at University. "Very, very talented," Levine said. "Has got a big arm." ... Houston actually has scored in 35 consecutive quarters, dating to the end of 2012. ... Former Bulls special teams/defensive ends coach Vernon Hargreaves now coaches linebackers at Houston.

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Full disclosure: My AP ballot (Oct. 27)

Unlike last weekend's seismic overhaul, my latest ballot remains relatively stable, with the top six teams intact.

The most significant shake-ups: Missouri (No. 9 to 14) and Texas Tech (seventh to 15th) exiting the top 10 after losses to quality opponents. Say what you will about Miami at No. 9, but the 'Canes remain immune to an upset bug that has stricken so many others.

You'll notice Louisville stays put at No. 19. Before balking, I pondered long and hard about nudging the Cardinals up for their resilience Saturday, when USF tried to wear down their offense by keeping it on the field 41 minutes. 

1. Alabama
2. Oregon
3. FSU
4. Ohio State
5. Baylor
6. Stanford
7. Auburn
8. Clemson
9. Miami
10. Oklahoma
11. Texas A&M
12. LSU
13. South Carolina
14. Missouri
15. Texas Tech
16. UCLA
17. Oklahoma State
18. UCF
19. Louisville
20. Fresno State
21. Wisconsin
22. Michigan
23. Northern Illinois
24. Notre Dame
25. Arizona State  

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Video: Joey Knight recaps USF-Louisville

Times beat reporter Joey Knight looks back at USF's 34-3 loss to Louisville Saturday at Raymond James Stadium in this video report.

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Volleyball: Bulls' win streak now at four

A festive homecoming Friday on USF's campus included an evening parade down the main thoroughfare and a two-hour block party in The Corral.

Asserting itself at the net, the Bulls (12-10, 6-2) rolled to a 3-1 triumph against Memphis for their fourth consecutive victory and sixth in seven matches. USF hosts Temple at noon Sunday for sole possession of second place in the American Athletic Conference.

The win streak has an excellent chance of staying intact if the Bulls lose no defensive momentum over the next 36 hours.

Facing the seventh-best digging team in the nation Friday before an announced audience of 409, the Bulls won the digs battle, 72-71, and had 18 team blocks to the Tigers' seven.

"It really drains the opponent when we get a big block and it really boosts our kids' energy and confidence," USF coach Courtney Draper said. "That's how you shut people out is really just defense, defense, defense. I was really proud of our defensive effort tonight."

Individually, sophomore outside hitter Erin Fairs continued to fortify her case for American player of the year with her 17th double-double of the season (18 kills, 18 digs). Middle blocker Andrea Rodriguez Gomez added 13 kills and 10 block assists. …

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Women's basketball: Bulls to sign European pair

With fewer scholarships to give this time around, USF's upcoming women's basketball signing class can't and won't boast the quantity of its predecessor.

Quality is another story.

Two rangy European guards -- Denmark's Maria Steen Jespersen and Portugal's Laura Ferreira -- have committed to Coach Jose Fernandez's program and will sign next month. Fernandez, who had an eight-player signing class in 2012-13, has one other scholarship available this year.

The NCAA's early signing period for men's and women's basketball starts Nov. 13.

A 6-foot Danish national team member, Jespersen shapes up as a matchup nightmare on the perimeter. Last season, she averaged 13.1 points and 8.1 rebounds in 19 games for Aabyhoj of the Danish league Dameligaen.

Ferreira, a 5-11 shooting guard, averaged 8.4 points and 7.3 rebounds for Portugal's under-20 team at the '13 European championships. In eight contests, she had one double-double, with nine points and nine boards in another.

Additionally, Montverde Academy senior Fifi Ndour, a 6-1 Zaire native, will visit USF this weekend.

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Video: USF-Louisville preview

USF works with blocking sleds in preparation for Saturday's game against Louisville.

JOEY KNIGHT | Times

USF works with blocking sleds in preparation for Saturday's game against Louisville.

Times beat reporter Joey Knight previews Saturday's game between USF and Louisville in this video report.

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Practice report (Oct. 23): Status of foursome still unclear

TAMPA -- Slightly more than 48 hours before USF and Louisville kick off, the status of the Bulls' four most prominent injured players remains unclear.

QB Steven Bench practiced again Wednesday, appearing to move well despite a cumbersome black brace on his right knee. TB Marcus Shaw (hamstring) practiced Tuesday but did not appear during the 15-minute portion of Wednesday's practice open to the media.

Coach Willie Taggart, who didn't address reporters Wednesday, could update the status of both during his noon teleconference Thursday.

Defensively, linemen Tevin Mims (leg) and Elkino Watson (knee), both of whom missed the Oct. 12 win at Connecticut, are game-time decisions according to defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan. Watson, who started the first five games, was suited up Wednesday.

"It's great to get them back on the practice field," Bresnahan said. "But again, the amount they contribute and the amount of play time they get will be based on how they feel that day and where the whole situation of the game is going."

FAB 14: Saturday's homecoming festivities will include on-field recognition of the 14 Bulls alumni who joined the football program when it began in 1996 (with no games that year) and stuck around through its first four seasons.

Those whose attendance has been confirmed are Ryan Benjamin, Otis Dixon, Edwin Greene, Steve Hatley, Shawn Hay, Charlie Jackson, Roy Manns, Vassay Marc, Leon Matthews, Corey Porter, Joe Sipp and Rafael Williams. Anthony Henry and Marshall Smith aren't expected, according to USF.

THE CB AND HIS COURT: Senior CB Brandon Salinas is among three candidates for USF's homecoming king, a title he hopes to use as a bridge between the athletes and conventional student body if he prevails.

"I notice there's a gap and I wanted to (thwart) a lot of stereotypes and show that we are friendly, we are pretty cool or whatever," Salinas said. "But the main focus is still football, it's just something else I was doing."

HYPED FOR RAINEY: Expect the USF coaches with Western Kentucky ties -- which is practically half the staff -- to at least take a gander or two at tonight's Bucs-Carolina Panthers game.

Former Hilltoppers RB Bobby Rainey (5-foot-8, 212 pounds), the program's alltime leading rusher (4,523 yards) was signed earlier this week by Tampa Bay, which will be without injured starter Doug Martin.

"You look at him and you're like, 'Man, he's too small,'" said Bulls offensive coordinator Walt Wells, Rainey's run-game coordinator at WKU.

"But as the game goes on, he just gets stronger and stronger and stronger. So hopefully they'll give him a shot and let him stick, but you couldn't ask for a better person."

AUDIBLE: "Wow, I didn't know that. Geez, you guys come up with all kinds of stats. I didn't even realize that. But it gives us something to shoot for." -- Taggart, when informed USF could be 3-0 in a conference for the first time ever if it defeats Louisville

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Wednesday: Chat live with Joey Knight, noon

Joey Knight will be chatting Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m.

Times files

Joey Knight will be chatting Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m.

Want to talk about USF's 2-0 start in American Athletic Conference play following losses in four nonconference games? This weekend's game against Louisville? The Bulls' revolving door at the quarterback position? Whatever's on your mind, join Times beat reporter Joey Knight for a live chat Wednesday, Oct. 23, from noon to 1 p.m. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Eveld to start Saturday vs. Louisville

TAMPA -- Bulls senior QB Bobby Eveld will make his second consecutive start in Saturday's nationally televised game against Louisville, but a Steven Bench appearance isn't totally out of the question.

A Marcus Shaw cameo also remains possible, Coach Willie Taggart indicated.

Speaking on the American Athletic Conference weekly coaches' teleconference Monday morning, Taggart said he still doesn't yet know whether Shaw (leg) or Bench (knee) -- USF's top rusher and onetime starting QB, respectively -- will play Saturday.

Both were injured in the first half of the Bulls' Oct. 5 win against Cincinnati. USF is coming off a bye week.

"So far they're on course, they're getting better," said Taggart, who gives his players Monday off. "I'll know more (Tuesday) once they go out and run around, but I wouldn't expect Bench to come in and start. Bobby will be our starter and we'll go from there.

"Those guys (Bench and Shaw), we'll see how they practice and perform, but they've been out a couple of weeks and will take time to get into the swing of things. We'll see how it goes."

ODDS AND ENDS: Fourteen members of USF's 1997 inaugural team will be introduced on the
field during Saturday's game. ... Former Buccaneers WR Joey Galloway will serve as analyst
for the ESPN2 broadcast. ... Louisville (6-1, 2-1), coming off a 38-35 loss to UCF, has a history of responding flatly to defeats. The Cardinals dropped their first game of 2012, 45-36 at Syracuse, on Nov. 10, then lost their next game two weeks later in triple-overtime at home against UConn.

AUDIBLE: "You can't allow one loss to beat you twice. We've just got to get our players back, get 'em back focused. It's all about preparation. We had our opportunities the other night and we didn't handle it. It's about us and about this team and them just working to get it going again." -- Louisville coach Charlie Strong, whose team's faint national title hopes were dashed in Friday's loss to UCF

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Full disclosure: My AP ballot (Oct. 20)

Like many voters who found their ballots reduced to rubble Saturday, I've spent the ensuing hours reconfiguring, restructuring and re-writing. Emphasis on re-writing.

After thorough assessment and agonizing, the following is what I turned in to Associated Press headquarters this morning. A little insight into what was running through my cerebrum:

Of the teams on last week's ballot, South Carolina (seventh to 17th) and Louisville (ninth to 19th) took the biggest drops, and deservedly so. Auburn made the biggest leap.

I refused to keep Clemson (third to 11th) in the top 10 after it was woefully outcoached in its biggest game in more than 30 years, but this team isn't as putrid as it looked Saturday. Remember, the Tigers beat Georgia when the Dawgs were, well, the Dawgs.

Miami jumped two spots, from 12th to 10th. I hear people bemoaning how they had to eke out Thursday's win in Chapel Hill. To the contrary, I rewarded them for winning a conference game on the road despite losing four prominent starters early on.

The door kicked Washington, Georgia and Florida in their proberbial rears on their way off my ballot. UCF, Northern Illinois and Notre Dame entered.

1. Alabama
2. Oregon
3. FSU
4. Ohio State
5. Baylor
6. Stanford
7. Texas Tech
8. Auburn
9. Missouri
10. Miami
11. Clemson
12. UCLA
13. LSU
14. Texas A&M
15. Virginia Tech
16. Oklahoma
17. South Carolina
18. UCF
19. Louisville
20. Oklahoma State
21. Wisconsin
22. Fresno State
23. Michigan
24. Northern Illinois
25. Notre Dame

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Report: Flowers re-commits to USF

Miami Jackson QB Quinton Flowers, who committed to USF last summer before withdrawing his pledge less than 24 hours later, reportedly has re-committed to the Bulls.

"I just committed to the University of South Florida," Flowers told Runningthebulls.com, the USF-based recruiting site for Rivals.com.

Deemed a three-star prospect by two major recruiting services (Scout.com gives him four stars), Flowers becomes the Bulls' 18th commitment from the Class of 2014, and the first projected quarterback to give a verbal pledge.

A dual-threat QB who totaled more than 2,300 yards (with 26 TDs and 13 picks) as a junior, he reportedly also holds offers from Alabama, Florida, Clemson and Texas, among others.

Should Flowers (6-foot, 205 pounds) stick with his commitment, it would represent another recruiting coup for Bulls running backs coach Telly Lockette. The former ultra-successful coach at nearby Miami Central, Lockette recruits his hometown for USF.

Bulls coaches have been on the road recruiting during this bye weekend.

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Women's soccer: Offensive surge lifts Bulls past Memphis

In the wake of consecutive conference losses that injured both their psyche and RPI, USF's women's soccer team returned home Friday in search of some badly needed mojo.

They found it in triplicate.

The Bulls (8-4-3, 3-3-0) scored three times in an eight-minute span, including twice in 53 seconds early in the second half, to pull away for a 3-1 triumph against Memphis (9-6-0, 2-4-0) in a critical American Athletic Conference match.

USF seeks to finish the year unbeaten at Corbett Stadium when it hosts Rutgers on Sunday.

"Coming off two tough losses that we thought we certainly were good enough to win...this was important for us," said Bulls assistant Jason Dowiak, whose club fell to Louisville and Cincinnati on the road last weekend.

"I think we were tied (in the conference) with Memphis coming into this weekend and getting a leg up on them was huge."

On a night that began with a summer-style evening shower, the Bulls' offensive deluge never relented. They finished with a 17-11 shot advantage, and 10-3 lead after one half.

But Memphis scored first, on senior Christabel Oduro's breakaway on a Kaitlyn Atkins through ball 3 1/2 minutes into the match. Olivia Chance scored the equalizer on a left-side breakaway six minutes before halftime.

A minute into the second half, USF took the lead for good on Sarah Miller's 10-yard blast from the right side. Fifty-three seconds later, Demi Stokes scored on a 15-yard shot courtesy of an assist from Newsome High alumnus Jackie Simpson.

"Getting early pressure on Memphis was a big deal for us," Dowiak said. "We had a couple of real early chances, and luckily after going down I think the girls got settled in even more."

An encore Sunday could really spike the Bulls' postseason hopes. Memphis and Rutgers entered the week 22nd and 60th, respectively, in the NCAA's RPI rankings. USF stood at 68.

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