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Gator remains confident despite missing kicks

Before the season, he found himself on the Lou Groza Award watch list as one of the nation's best kickers. Now Florida's Matt Leach finds himself with more missed field goals than made.

Despite missing a 21-yarder Sept. 18 in a two-point loss to Tennessee and two more against Kentucky on Saturday, including one that was partially blocked, Leach said he remains confident.

"I've got plenty of confidence in myself and what I can do," said Leach, who is 2-of-5.

Coach Ron Zook has been one of Leach's biggest supporters since the beginning of the 2001 season. Zook said he and the team have "all the confidence in the world" in Leach, and the kicker said the coach is the first one to lift his spirits after a miss.

Leach said he is looking forward to moving on, getting on a roll and coming through as the season goes along.

"It's early in the season," Leach said. "If I'm going to miss bad ones, I'd rather miss them now and make the rest for the rest of the season, obviously."

FASON HONORED: The SEC named running back Ciatrick Fason its offensive player of the week after gaining 210 yards on 31 carries against Kentucky. Fason leads the SEC and is ninth in the nation at 132 yards per game.

ON THE SIDELINE: After missing some plays late Saturday due to a head injury, center Mike Degory was held out of practice for precautionary measures. But Zook said he does not believe Degory sustained a concussion.

"I don't know what a concussion is anymore," Zook said. "Nowadays, if you get a headache, it's a concussion. We didn't think it was football unless you got a headache."

_ BRIAN SHAFFER, Times correspondent

FSU: Receiver's family safe

TALLAHASSEE _ Florida State receiver Chauncey Stovall's hometown of Gifford was again in the path of a major storm, but his family was unharmed and relatives' property suffered only minor damage during Hurricane Jeanne's landfall last weekend.

Stovall, who had a team-high seven catches for 96 yards Saturday, said the storm created a hole in the roof of his grandfather's back porch in Gifford, a coastal town north of Vero Beach. Three weeks ago, his grandfather lost a backyard shed to Frances.

In September, when Frances was approaching Florida, 30 relatives fled to Stovall's four-bedroom apartment in Tallahassee. For Jeanne, Stovall said his family stayed home.

JEANNE DAMAGE: A large canopy, metal rods and all, was dangling from the top of Doak Campbell Stadium.

The new Moore Athletic Center also experienced storm-related problems. Water on the second floor had to be vacuumed, carpets dried by electric fans and several soaked, crumbling ceiling panels removed. And the mesh screen around the practice-field fence to ensure privacy was sagging in some places, off in most others.

WEEKLY AWARD: Senior cornerback Leroy Smith, who returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown against Clemson, was named ACC defensive back of the week.

_ ZACHARY SPAIN, Times correspondent

_ BRIAN LANDMAN, Times staff writer

USF: Area grads lift offense

TAMPA _ After South Florida struggled on offense in its first two games, some bay area graduates provided a spark.

Sophomore S.J. Green (Brandon), junior Joe Bain (Pasco) and freshman J.B. Garris (East Bay) combined for 12 catches and 179 yards against TCU on Saturday. And junior Andre Hall (Dixie Hollins) gained 119 yards on 28 carries, caught four passes for 64 yards and scored four touchdowns, two in overtime.

"They played like I expect them to play," coach Jim Leavitt said. "They played at a high level."

Green's 98 yards were more than double last season's total. Near the end of the first quarter, he nearly threw his first touchdown, but it was dropped in the end zone. Bain's four catches were a career high, and his 53-yarder in the second half tied a career long.

BACK HOME: USF returned to Tampa at 12:30 p.m. Monday after an extra day and a half in Arlington, Texas, because of Hurricane Jeanne. But Leavitt won't complain.

"It doesn't matter if it did (affect this week's schedule) or didn't," Leavitt said. "We had no control over it. We just go."

The coaches took advantage of the layover by starting preparations for Saturday's game against Southern Miss.

INJURY REPORT: Left tackle Derrick Sarosi, who left the game twice Saturday with an unspecified injury, practiced, and Leavitt said he looked good. Defensive lineman Matt Groelinger, who didn't travel to TCU, also practiced. Guard Chris Carothers missed practice with an unspecified injury.

BACK NEXT YEAR: Strong safety Johnnie Jones, who sustained a neck stinger Sept. 18 against South Carolina, did not travel with the team Saturday. Instead, he visited his high school, Sarasota Booker, for a game Friday night. "He's going to (seek a medical) redshirt, take a year to rehab his neck and make sure everything is all right," Booker coach Fred Gilmore said. "It was just a crick in his neck, but it scared him a little bit."

Jones, who was shot in the neck and back in December but returned for USF's first two games, will play his senior season in 2005.

_ THOMAS SIMONETTI, Times correspondent

_ GREG AUMAN, Times staff writer