Senior middle linebacker Kawika Mitchell, a Butkus Award candidate, came out of the locker room to start the game on a tackling spree. He started the game with a tackle on Golden Eagles quarterback Micky D’Angelo, causing an incomplete pass, followed by two tackles on running back Derrick Nix.
Before the game started, Mitchell was able to hold the Butkus trophy before the decision is made to dwindle the candidate list down to 10 on Thursday.
The Butkus Award, along with Bobby Olszewski, the chairman of publicity and media relations for the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando, were on hand at Raymond James Stadium Saturday night.
The D.A.C. of Orlando is the organization that presents the award to the top linebacker in the country.
“We wanted to show people that USF may not come up on the radar screen but national trophies are taking notice,” Olszewski said.
Mitchell had 12 total tackles, making him the Bulls’ all-time leader in tackles with 318 as well as 18th in the nation with 11.75 per game.
Against the Golden Eagles, Mitchell had two tackles for a total loss of three yards. Mitchell leads the nation with three tackles for loss per game.
“I like holding it, it’s a nice looking trophy,” Mitchell said in reference to the Butkus Award. “But my inspiration comes from my teammates. We wanted to win and come out here and play well and do whatever it takes.”
The Bulls’ inspiration came from losing 41-7 to the Golden Eagles in 2000.
“A minute and whatever it was, for the past two years, we had to give it all we had and leave it on the field,” Mitchell said. “Especially for us seniors.”
Ground game piles it on
The Bulls had their best running game of the season, compiling 218 yards with an average of 5.1 yards a carry.
The Bulls eclipsed their previous season high of 161 against North Texas on Oct. 5 by 57 yards.
USF only gained 61 yards for both the Oklahoma and Arkansas games.
One of the main reasons behind the Bulls’ aggressive running was junior running back Vince Brewer.
Brewer had 80 yards, more than half of his season total 134. Brewer also caught four passes for 33 yards, most coming in the middle on some of the Bulls’ screen plays.
“Boy was he a bull, he was a warrior,” coach Jim Leavitt said. “I thought Vince really ran hard.”