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USF's punt returners had help in opener

TAMPA

Much of the special-teams praise from USF's 56-7 win Saturday over Tennessee-Martin was directed at returners Marcus Edwards, Patrick Richardson and Theo Wilson, who combined to give the Bulls a Big East record for total punt return yards in a game.

But as Bulls assistant Troy Douglas charted and graded the game tape, he was impressed by another staggering number: USF had 19 knockdown blocks on those 10 punt returns, led by six from LB Tyrone McKenzie, four from RB Jamar Taylor and two from CB Jerome Murphy.

USF had made it a priority to put their best players on special teams, including starters.

"We were very aggressive, and they (Tennessee-Martin) didn't really want to cover punts very much the other night," Douglas said. "We're a Florida team, so it's got to be a weapon for us with the athletes we have. We've got to be good on special teams. We've preached it and worked it very hard in camp."

Douglas said he expects more of a challenge on punt returns Saturday, as UCF's "stingers" — the fastest players who line up wide and are typically the first to reach a returner — are especially good. Douglas said when USF double-teamed the stingers against Tennessee-Martin, the coverage was extremely effective.

"We got after it pretty good," Douglas said. "Our double teams had their guys up on the sideline. They knocked a coach down. It was pretty impressive. They took to it and really performed. It helps when you have a guy back there who can take it the distance. They want to fight for that."

BIG CROWDS: Hoping the high student turnout for football games can spill over to other sports, USF has implemented an incentive program that gives students who attend other sporting events on campus a better shot at getting seats in the Bulls' football student section.

With 45,000 students and only 12,501 seats in the student section, USF students camped out for the free tickets last season. This year, there's an online lottery, and students can improve their chances by having their student ID swiped at volleyball, soccer and other sports.

As a result, a record sellout crowd of 1,178 fans packed the Corral in the Sun Dome for volleyball Friday night, and another 1,100 were back Saturday afternoon. USF executive associate athletic director Bill McGillis is pleased with the initial success of the program.

"You hate to throw around too many big adjectives, but it was phenomenal," McGillis said. "When it was standing room only Friday night, there was probably another 300 or 400 outside lining the sidewalk past the rec center. … A lot of students came in large part to get the points (for football) but … we think it will be great for volleyball and men's and women's soccer."

Only 1,000 tickets to Saturday's football game at UCF have been set aside for students to purchase, and students are also trying to get lower-level tickets for USF's Sept. 12 game against No. 14 Kansas.

THIS AND THAT: Freshman QB B.J. Daniels, 4-for-4 for 86 yards in his debut Saturday, will be on USF's basketball roster, but won't practice with Stan Heath's team until after any bowl game. "I have to stay focused on football. That's what I came here for," Daniels said. … Tied for the scoring lead in men's soccer is Zak Boggs, a transfer from UCF who sat out last season after leading the Knights in scoring in 2006. Boggs had a goal and assist in Friday's 3-0 win over Bowling Green.

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf.

USF's punt returners had help in opener 09/02/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 2, 2008 10:54pm]

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