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USF linebackers ready for second shot at FSU

After leading the nation in forced fumbles per game in 2014, senior Nigel Harris is back to his old form.  ORACLE FILE PHOTO/JACOB HOAG

Heading into halftime against Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium last year, USF had held the Seminoles in check for seven points and a tied ballgame. 

However, with starting linebacker Nigel Harris already suspended from the game for a violation of team rules, USF’s defense began to buckle when Auggie Sanchez, USF’s other starting linebacker, was ejected for targeting in the third quarter. 

“I just sat in the locker room mad, upset,” Sanchez said. “(I) said some bad things to myself in there, took a shower and got ready for the bus ride home. But yeah, I was very upset with myself; I was very upset with the call. Just disappointed.”

The junior linebacker said USF had the targeting call reviewed by officials who later deemed the call should have never been made in the first place. 

“Just to know it wasn’t targeting, it kind of makes you a little more upset,” Sanchez said. “Still to this day, it makes me a little upset.”

From that point on, the Bulls were outscored 17-7 in an eventual 34-14 loss. With both starting linebackers out of the game, Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook seized control. 

Cook finished with 266 yards and three of FSU’s four touchdowns. 

“We were in kind of a bad situation with a lot of young guys in there and unfortunately we had some guys suspended,” Sanchez said. “So those were veteran guys we counted on the rest of the season. We were a gap short a couple times and it was still kind of a new defense, it was the second game we were in the 4-2-5 of the defense that coach (Tom) Allen brought over. 

“So, we were still kind of learning it. A couple plays we were off on blitzes, couple plays we were a gap short. FSU, they’re the type of team that takes advantage of that.”

Both Sanchez and Harris are raring to go at the thought of another chance against the Seminoles on Saturday, as the two linebackers have been the crux of the “Bull Shark” defense through the first three weeks. 

The linebacker duo, which leads USF in tackles and sacks, is benefitting from both the experience and friendship the two have shared. 

“Nigel, he’s a big-time player,” Sanchez said. “He’s definitely one of my best friends on and off the field, we have awesome camaraderie. We kind of know what each other’s going to do without sometimes even talking. I guess this is what we expected from Nigel.”

Harris and Sanchez will once again face a Florida State team led by Cook, but this time the two starters will have ample opportunities to stop him.  

“(It’s tough) knowing one of our top guys went out and both of our backups were in,” Harris said. “That does make a difference sometimes in critical games like that.  Just in case something crazy happens, we have another starter in the game, so I’m feeling better about our situation this year.”