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Men's soccer streak "ridiculously amazing'

Not a single score in 380 minutes. More than six hours.

That's how long it has been since the last goal allowed by USF's men's soccer team, which is off to a 5-0-0 start that features four consecutive shutouts, including an impressive 3-0 upset of No. 5 Southern Methodist on Friday.

"Now that we've gotten four in a row, it's like I don't ever want to get scored on again. I don't want to know what that feels like again," said goalkeeper Dane Brenner, who totaled two shutouts in all of last season but has now been the Conference USA defensive player of the week twice in a row.

Blank Stetson at home tonight and USF can match the longest streak of shutouts of any Bulls team, set at the end of the 1992 season. A big challenge awaits Saturday, when the Bulls play host to defending conference champion St. Louis.

Each zero on the scoreboard has further validated USF's success, but the shutouts are still taking players by surprise.

"It's ridiculously amazing," said freshman Rodrigo Hidalgo, a nationally coveted recruit who has a goal and a team-high three assists. "I expected it a little bit from the preseason, the way we were working so hard. It's paid off a lot, and we just hope we can keep it going."

With two conference road wins already under their belts, the Bulls can put themselves in the lead for the C-USA title with a win against St. Louis. Another priority is earning the team's first trip to the NCAA tournament in three years.

"I've never been there, and it's been one of our main goals, to get back to NCAAs," said junior Hunter West, on pace to lead the Bulls in scoring for the third year in a row. "Just taking little steps like we've been doing, beating the Florida teams, beating the ranked teams, that's helping us get to that goal."

USF is ranked in both major polls, moving up to 16th in Soccer America and debuting this week in the coaches' poll at 17th.

LEGAL UPDATE: Two of the three football players accused of stealing $3,615 in property from a former teammate have dropped out of fall classes, according to the registrar's office.

Linebackers Brouce Mompremier and C.J. Hunnicutt canceled their enrollment last week, while defensive end Josh Julmiste remains enrolled as a full-time student, records show. It's unclear whether Julmiste has been allowed to attend classes since the incident was reported to police Aug. 30.

The state attorney's office has not begun to investigate whether to press charges against the three.

Hunnicutt is coaching linebackers for the junior varsity team at his alma mater, Bradenton Southeast.

COULD BE: It's a rather glass-half-full view of the Bulls' 34-3 football loss at South Carolina, but USF's sports information department offered this perspective: The setback could just be part of a recent pattern that requires a humbling nonconference loss to spark a run of success. Check out parallels drawn among the last four seasons:

2003: USF opens with a 40-17 loss to Alabama, then wins its next three games.

2002: USF loses to Arkansas and Oklahoma by a combined 56 points, then closes out the season with seven straight wins.

2001: USF loses 52-21 at Utah, then ends the season with six straight wins.

2000: USF loses 41-7 to Southern Miss, then wins four of its five remaining games.

THIS AND THAT: USF leads C-USA with 72.5 penalty yards a game, while TCU is second at 69.7. Two more true freshmen, guard Jake Griffin of Armwood and running back Ricky Ponton of Hillsborough, have dropped off USF's depth chart, replaced by redshirt freshman Nick Capogna of Clearwater Central Catholic and sophomore Craig Lloyd.

Greg Auman covers USF and can be reached via e-mail at aumansptimes.com.

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