Inking new history in the old books
South Florida’s football team spent this year carving notches in the proverbial record book. First and foremost, the most important Bulls record: Ending at 8-3. This year’s’ Bulls tied their 1998 counterparts with eight wins in 11 games, losing after two failed last-second plays against Northern Illinois and Memphis and a 31-point defeat at Utah. But led by Marquel “Mr. Record Breaker” Blackwell, the Bulls rebounded, winning their last six and breaking up their early losses with wins at Pittsburgh and against North Texas, both of whom are going to bowl games.
Speaking of Blackwell and the Pittsburgh Panthers, Blackwell set his first single game records going 37-65 (both school records) and being a part of 76 total plays throughout the game. Blackwell also emblazoned his name in the single game column by throwing four touchdowns in the game, tying himself against Liberty in 2000 and Chad Barnhardt at Hofstra in 1998. Two of the four TDs were hauled in by junior wide receiver DeAndrew Rubin, which tied a single game record he set the week before at Northern Illinois. Rubin would be tied by receivers Chris Iskra (Liberty) and Huey Whittaker (Southern Utah). Whittaker finished the season with the record for single-season receiving yards at 548 and receptions with 52. Confused? I hope not because that is only seven of the numerous records the team set.
Don’t believe me? Well, the team had 31 first downs against Southern Utah while USF quarterbacks completed 41 passes, two of which were to Whittaker, tying the single game record, while Blackwell completed 80.4 percent of his passes, tying his Pittsburgh record of 37 completions.
OK, now I’ll slow down a little, but not before we count down the top nine season records for the team: 9) 236 first downs; 8) 136 passing first downs; 7) 25 rushing touchdowns; 6) 483 pass attempts; 5) 273 pass completions; 4) 3,005 passing yards; 3) 10 fourth down conversions (ties 1997); 2) 40 sacks and 1) 55 team touchdowns.
Rubin started the season strong with two 100-yard receiving games (that is another record in case you are counting) before being sidelined with a turf toe injury that limited his performance much of the year. Rubin’s four receiving touchdowns were not enough to break the single season record, but it did give him the career mark at 11. Eleven is also the record number of receptions by a Bull; Rubin hauled them in at Pittsburgh.
The defense didn’t sit around quietly while the offense filled in their columns. Those 40 sacks didn’t come from just anywhere. Ten of them came from sophomore Shurron Pierson, who captured the quarterback nine times in the last four games. Pierson wasn’t alone; he broke the sack record set just weeks before by junior Chris Daley who ended the season with 9.5 sacks. Sophomore J.R. Reed tied the season interception record of current Cleveland Brown Anthony Henry (who now has seven in the NFL) with five, while setting the fumble recovery record at three, which as you probably guessed set the total takeaway record at seven.
Preseason Butkus Award watch list candidate Kawika Mitchell finished the season with 106 total tackles followed closely by Anthony Williams at 102, placing the combo at one and two on the all-time season list.
But the “One-more-drop-in-the-bucket” award has to go to Blackwell, who set record after record after record after … well, here is a relatively short list. This season Blackwell set the passing yardage record at 2,882 yards. He threw 20 touchdowns and had nine rushing touchdowns (tying him with Dyral McMillan in 1999 and Otis Dixon in 1998), while wrapping up the single-season record for total offensive yards with 3,123.
Now I’m sure I will have a ton of e-mail about how I forgot that the Bulls set the record for the most first downs caused by penalties or something like that, but I never claimed this would be a complete list. However, with the return of 17 starters next year, this column will be filed in the back of the USF media guide ready to be replaced and broken.
P.S. In case you are just itching to know, South Florida had 42 first downs due to penalties.