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Familiar name leads a revised lineup

Five Bulls made their first start of the season against Texas Christian, notably freshman Danny Verpaele, who took over for injured senior Johnnie Jones at strong safety.

The name is familiar to USF fans because Verpaele's brother, Kevin, now a USF graduate assistant, was the Bulls strong safety the past two seasons. Verpaele is the first true freshman to start for USF in the defensive secondary in four years.

On defense, redshirt freshman Ronnie McCullough replaced junior Devon Davis at middle linebacker, making the tackle on TCU's first play. Junior Terrence Royal, who started all 11 games at defensive end last season, returned to the starting lineup in place of senior Craig Kobel, who later lined up at defensive tackle.

Offensively, junior Andre Hall made his first start and showed why early, breaking three tackles on a 58-yard run in the first quarter that set up USF's first touchdown. Hall's 58-yard run was the longest nonscoring run in USF history, trumping a 55-yard run by Otis Dixon against Georgia Southern in 1998.

Freshman Jackie Chambers, who led the Bulls in receiving yards entering the game, made his first start at receiver in place of J.B. Garris, who entered on the third drive with a brace on his left knee.

Jones, who had worked hard to get healthy in time for the season after being shot twice in the neck and back over Christmas, may be headed for a medical redshirt. He sustained a neck stinger early in last week's game and did not return, though coaches had been optimistic he would play this week. A medical redshirt would allow him to play his final season in 2005.

FLAGS FLYING: For the second week in a row, a penalty on fourth down set up the first touchdown for USF's opponent.

Last week, a roughing-the-kicker flag on a punt allowed South Carolina to keep the ball, and the Gamecocks struck for a 56-yard touchdown on the next play.

Saturday, TCU had been held to three and out, but USF was flagged for illegal substitution, giving the Horned Frogs a first down. TCU connected on a 36-yard pass play, then scored two plays later on Brandon Hassell's 7-yard pass to Lonta Hobbs.

THIRD'S THE CHARM: The public-address announcer at Amon Carter Stadium pumps up the fans by announcing that "IIIITTT'S THIRD DOWN!" whenever opponents get to that pivotal situation. After going 2-for-13 in last week's loss to South Carolina, the Bulls owned third downs Saturday, converting seven of their first 11 opportunities.

THIS AND THAT: Junior Mike Ruegger, who started USF's first two games at tight end, started at fullback. He also caught his first pass, an 8-yard gain in the first quarter. Senior Justin Geisler of Land O'Lakes, who handles USF's kickoffs, made a touchdown-saving tackle when TCU's Cory Rodgers broke a return down the left sideline. Due to the threat of Hurricane Jeanne, USF was unable to take its chartered flight out of Fort Worth as scheduled Saturday night. The Bulls hoped to take an afternoon flight home today, though it was unclear whether airports in Tampa or Orlando would be open.

_ GREG AUMAN, Times staff writer