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UCF-USF: Big game, bigger trophy

USF linebacker Nigel Harris is flanked at Tuesday's press conference by the "War on I-4" trophy, to be presented to the winner of Saturday's UCF-USF game.


USF linebacker Nigel Harris is flanked at Tuesday's press conference by the "War on I-4" trophy, to be presented to the winner of Saturday's UCF-USF game.



If Saturday afternoon's triumphant players -- be they from USF or UCF -- aren't careful hoisting the rivalry's new trophy, the "War on I-4" could regress into the Hernia in Hillsborough.

The series' trophy, all 160 pounds of it, was situated next to the podium at the Bulls' weekly press conference Tuesday, and some observers were visibly taken aback by its size. If official team rosters are accurate, it weighs more than two Knights players: KR Adrian Killins (155 pounds) and WR Jimmie Roberts (150).

"I think that's pretty cool that you have it, because every place I’ve been you have something to show that you won that game – that rivalry game," Bulls coach Willie Taggart said.

"Being at Western (Kentucky), we played Murray State, we played for a belt -- the Battle of the (Red) Belt. Going to Stanford, Stanford-Cal, they played for the Axe. And they were serious about their axe. At Stanford, they kept it inside a bullet-proof window so no one could get it. So it was very important to them."

RECORD WATCH: With one touchdown catch Saturday, Bulls senior WR Rodney Adams ties the program's career record (17) held by Andre Davis. To do so, he'll have to maneuver his way past two former Lakewood High teammates, UCF twins Shaquem and Shaquill Griffin.

The former, who had his left hand amputated at age 4 due to a birth defect, ranks fifth nationally with 11 total sacks as a Knights outside linebacker.

"Playing with (Shaquem), I mean, you saw it from the jump," said Adams, who played youth football with the twins. "He was a great player from the jump."

INJURY UPDATE: Taggart said PK Emilio Nadelman, who has missed the last two games with a quad injury, is improving, though Taggart couldn't recall if he kicked at Tuesday's practice. DT Deadrin Senat, who exited the SMU game with an unspecified injury, practiced Tuesday.

"There’s going to be some bumps and bruises and some pains," Taggart said. "And I think that’s what Deadrin’s going through right now. But he's doing well."

SYRACUSE SEQUEL: Taggart acknowledged TB Marlon Mack's 60-yard TD run Saturday at SMU, on a jet sweep-style run to the left on fourth-and-1, was the same play called when he ran for a 52-yard TD -- also on fourth-and-1 -- at Syracuse.

"Literally, the exact same play," Taggart said. "The ball wasn’t supposed to go out there, but it was kind of like the bunch rule: If there’s a bunch of guys over there, then you go over here. And it’s kind of what he did and just outran everybody."

ODDS AND ENDS: The Bulls will have a team meal Thanksgiving Day, and local players also will be given a couple of hours to have a meal with their families. Guys who live farther away will eat with a teammate or coach. ... Taggart said he doesn't have a favorite Thanksgiving side dish, just anything except squash. ... Taggart says he wants the UCF game to remain on Thanksgiving weekend. ... If his team defeats UCF, Taggart said he will not watch Saturday night's Temple-East Carolina game, though an ECU triumph would put the Bulls in the American Athletic Conference title game. "I'm not doing myself like that," he said. "There's no joy in that. Someone will tell me."

AUDIBLE: "I don't know. I just think enough people aren't watching enough football. They're not watching the team or whatever. Because if you are, then there's no excuses. But we'll get there." -- Taggart, when asked if a Power Five bias exists among pollsters. USF (9-2) only received votes in the latest Associated Press poll, which featured only one ranked AAC team (No. 18 Houston).

[Last modified: Tuesday, November 22, 2016 5:19pm]


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