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Column: Let’s see … video games or homework?

We all grew up playing video games.

Some more than others, and some certainly more seriously than others, but few people have reached college age without having played video games. Sports titles always afforded the gamer the opportunity to vicariously play with athletes they grew up admiring and imitating. I can still recall playing R.B.I. baseball on the original Nintendo, rejoicing in every home run “I” cracked with Will Clark.

But as cool as pretending to be someone else on a video games can be, how sweet would it be to play yourself in one?

This year’s version of the USF football team, participating in Division I-A football for the first time, has just that opportunity with EA Sports’ NCAA Football 2002 for the Playstation2.

And trust me, this game is not to be confused with “Pong.”Head-shaking graphics, combined with realistic game play, make this a must for fans of college football. And for a night, the game would serve as more than entertainment for fellow football writer Jarrett Guthrie and myself.

Rather than wait for the game Saturday, Jarrett and I decided to get a sneak peek at Saturday’s USF-UCONN contest. So we sat down to settle the score between the Bulls and Huskies – and each other – the only way true warriors should: in the form of pixels.

Let the games begin.

After a bit of whining and crying on my part, Jarrett agreed to let me play with the Bulls, and the scene was set on my television as South Florida took the field, led through the tunnel by quarterback Marquel Blackwell and running back Vince Brewer.

UCONN got the ball first and as is Jarrett’s nature (he’s a Bobby Bowden fan), he tried a fake punt from his own 23-yard line.

Needless to say, his tomfoolery failed, setting up a 23-yard Huey Whittaker touchdown strike one play later. The next time the Bulls touched the ball, they tacked on a field goal and before my husky friend could blink, he and the Huskies were in a 10-0 hole. Perhaps the 18-point spread in favor of the Bulls wasn’t all that far off.

I mocked him, I prodded at him and I reminded him UCONN was nothing more than a basketball school.

And this is the part of the story when I reached down and inserted my size 12 Doc Martin’s into my mouth.

Jarrett and the mighty Huskies responded with a scoring burst, putting 21 unanswered points on the board, courtesy of two turnovers in Bulls’ territory.

But alas, a 10-play 80-yard drive, capped off by a Clenton Crossley TD run, cut the deficit to 21-17 right before halftime and swayed the momentum in the favor of South Florida.

But that was as close as the Bulls would get.UCONN opened the second half with a nine-play drive, punctuated by the Huskies’ Taber Small barreling over linebacker Anthony Williams at the goal line for a 28-17 lead.

All I could do was shake my head, relating to the pain coach Jim Leavitt must go through when he feels like his hands are tied.And to add insult to injury, I lost to Jarrett.

But of course it’s just a game – or at least that’s what my girlfriend keeps telling me. But the bottom line is, what a rush it must be to be Kawika Mitchell and get to control yourself on a top-selling video game. And no matter what the outcome of the season or his career, that is something that can never be taken away. Congratulations to Jarrett for not only overcoming the heavily favored Bulls, but for defeating his boss as well. And oh, by the way, Joe Morgan has claimed to be the best on the Bulls at NCAA Football 2002, so the gauntlet has been laid down.Any takers?

  • Brandon Wright covers football and can be reached at