Four weeks after he lay motionless on the field at Florida International, momentarily unable to feel anything below his neck, senior LB Brouce Mompremier was back in the starting lineup.
Mompremier returned to practice last week and was cleared for contact by doctors on Friday. It didn't take him long to make a big hit Saturday, tackling Syracuse QB Cameron Dantley on the opening drive.
"That hit on the quarterback was the best feeling of the day right there," said Mompremier, who totaled three tackles. "I wasn't hesitant on my first snap, but just to get that big hit out of the way, it made me feel confident about the rest of the game."
Mompremier, 23, sat out two games after suffering a neuropraxia, a sudden trauma to the spinal cord that causes brief paralysis but no long-term damage. Doctors told him he faced no greater risk of harm than any of his teammates. Defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said having his senior leader back on the field was uplifting on many levels.
"I couldn't tell he'd missed a beat," Burnham said. "It means so much to the team. They know what the kid went through, saw him out there with everyone praying around him, that he might never play or walk again. It's an inspiration to this football team that he has that kind of spirit, that intestinal fortitude to come back and attempt it."
Two other defensive starters who had been limited in the last two games, end George Selvie and tackle Terrell McClain, also returned to the starting lineup, though Selvie was still limited, getting half a sack.
"George is still tender, and you could tell it out there a couple of times on plays he could have made probably at 100 percent. That's still worrisome," Burnham said.
INJURY: Senior S Danny Verpaele, a starter in the nickel package, injured his right foot in the second half and did not return, wearing a boot. "It doesn't sound real good right now, from what I was told," Burnham said. With Verpaele out, USF used redshirt freshman Quenton Washington at corner and moved senior Tyller Roberts to the nickel.
THIRD WATCH: The third remains a dominant quarter for USF, which has outscored its opponents 59-7 this season. The Bulls outscored Syracuse 14-0 in the third Saturday and outgained the Orange 152-6.
GROTHE WATCH: QB Matt Grothe matched career highs for passing touchdowns (three) and total touchdowns (four), having set both totals twice before.
THIS AND THAT: Senior RB Ben Williams, who totaled 136 yards of offense in the first six games while limited by an ankle injury, caught three passes for 65 yards. ... Senior Justin Teachey, who put a late kickoff out of bounds in the loss to Pittsburgh Oct. 2, did it again on his second kickoff Saturday. Freshman Maikon Bonani, who kicked two field goals, handled the last three kickoffs. ... For the second game in a row, the Bulls forced a three-and-out on the first drive, but ran into the punter for a first down.
Greg Auman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf.