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Blocked punt briefly sparks USF Bulls

Big TD: FSU linebacker Christian Jones, front, celebrates his 12-yard fumble return for a score.
Big TD: FSU linebacker Christian Jones, front, celebrates his 12-yard fumble return for a score.
Published Sep. 30, 2012

TAMPA — The loudest a sellout crowd got in support of USF on Saturday night and the closest it came to catching Florida State came early in the second half, when the defense forced a three-and-out and freshman LB Tashon Whitehurst came flying in to block a punt.

"I was really just trying to go out for my seniors; to fight as hard as I can," said Whitehurst, who went to high school in Gainesville. "When I made the block, I was just so excited. I tried to pick it up. I love my seniors. The boys have great heart."

Whitehurst recovered the loose ball, and USF started at the FSU 8. QB B.J. Daniels ran in for a touchdown to cut the FSU lead to 13-10, and Whitehurst's play ignited the sellout crowd, though the Bulls failed to capitalize on the momentum.

"That blocked punt was a great individual effort by Tashon White­hurst," USF coach Skip Holtz said. "It certainly gave our football team some energy on that sideline."

FSU hadn't had a punt blocked since Oct. 31, 2009, against N.C. State.

BIG SHOWING: USF announced the attendance at 69,383, about 2,000 more than any of its four previous sellouts. Fans bought up 500 standing-room only tickets on Friday just to watch from the south end zone plaza.

"It was fun; a lot of people yelling," Bulls RB Demetris Murray said. "You really couldn't tell who they were yelling for, but I enjoyed it."

The 69,383 number represented tickets distributed. The actual attendance, according to the Tampa Sports Authority, was 58,808.

HUMBLE HOMECOMING: Three autumns after leading Plant High to a Class 5A state title, TB James Wilder led the Seminoles from the visitors tunnel Saturday.

He wasn't especially conspicuous after that. Wilder (five carries, 8 yards) had a shot at a second-quarter touchdown but was stuffed for a 2-yard loss on second and goal from the 1. The Seminoles settled for a field goal.

"It was very disappointing," said Wilder, who also caught two passes for 3 yards.

"It happens to everybody; even the best of the best. They don't get it in all the time."

Collectively, FSU's bay area-based contingent was barely visible. WR Christian Green (Tampa Catholic) was shut out while junior DT Demonte McAllister (Alonso) had one tackle.

CALL HIM RE-PETE: FSU sophomore WR Rashad Greene, who scored on a 10-yard end-around in the first quarter, now has touchdowns via punt return (twice), reception and run this season. No Seminole has done that since Peter Warrick (eight receiving, three rushing, one punt return) in 1999.

ODDS AND ENDS: USF sophomore LB Reshard Cliett got his first career start but left early with a lower-leg injury. His status was unknown. … USF's defense totaled 10 tackles for loss, more than it had in its previous two games, both losses, combined. … The Bulls have gone five games without an interception. … FSU now is 5-0 against in-state schools under coach Jimbo Fisher. … FSU senior WR Rodney Smith (three catches, 19 yards) extended his streak of games with at least one catch to 30.