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Bulls are not out of Big East race

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PITTSBURGH - If there seemed to be a silver lining at the end of USF's disappointing 31-17 loss, it was that Connecticut and West Virginia, the other teams undefeated in the Big East, were trailing big in the fourth quarter of their games.

Connecticut lost to Cincinnati, but West Virginia rallied from 17 down in the fourth quarter to beat Louisville 46-44 in triple overtime, putting even more importance on USF's homecoming game against the Mountaineers Saturday.

"The race is wide open," USF coach Jim Leavitt said. "That's what's unbelievable, this Big East race. It's whoever can get their act together in the second half of the season. If we can, we've got a shot. If we can't, we won't. We'll look a lot like today."

West Virginia (6-1, 3-0) sits alone atop the conference standings, but if the Bulls (3-3, 1-1) can win Saturday, they'll be within a half-game of first place with a tiebreaker advantage against two top challengers, the Mountaineers and Louisville.

DON'T ASK: If the Bulls' inefficient, turnover-laden quarterback play has fans clamoring for freshman Carlton Hill to take over behind center, Leavitt put that option to rest.

"That was an easy decision," Leavitt said when asked if he thought about sending the heralded freshman into the game. "Believe me, I would probably put him in if he was ready. He's not ready yet."

Hill, a touted recruit from Monticello, has split time at quarterback and receiver in practice but hasn't made an impact at either. He has three catches for 19 yards and four carries for minus-2 yards. After sophomore Courtney Denson threw a costly interception in relief of starter Pat Julmiste, Leavitt went back to Julmiste the rest of the way.

SURPRISE GUEST: Commissioner Mike Tranghese, who attended USF's Big East opener against Louisville, was at Heinz Field. Associate commissioner Nick Carparelli is scheduled to represent the league at next weekend's USF-West Virginia game.

REVERSE EFFECT: The Bulls scored twice on reverses against Louisville last month but struggled with the play Saturday. USF attempted four reverses, failing to gain yards on any of them.

THIS AND THAT: Like USF, Pittsburgh shares its stadium with an NFL team, but Heinz Field is much kinder to its college tenants than Raymond James Stadium. Even with the Steelers playing a home game today, Pittsburgh had its name in the north end zone, and the Panthers have their name prominently displayed around the stadium. ... Sophomore defensive tackle Richard Clebert made his first start, contributing a half-sack on Pittsburgh's first drive. ... Linebacker Ben Moffitt's blocked punt is his second of the season, after one against Florida A&M. ... Hall's touchdown was his 20th, tying him for second on USF's all-time list with Marquel Blackwell and Otis Dixon. His next score will tie him with Clenton Crossley for first. He leads the Bulls in rushing (598 yards) and receiving yards (227).


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    "They picked us at the bottom. We're trying to get to the top. We're looking forward to the future, not backward.''

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