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Offensive line hit by more injuries


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By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer

Published September 2, 2007

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TAMPA - USF's offensive line, dinged up for much of the preseason, played much of its opening win against Elon without two starters sidelined with new injuries.

Senior center Nick Capogna sprained his left knee on the second offensive series and did not play in the second half, though offensive line coach Mike Simmonds said he's optimistic he won't be sidelined long.

"He'll be okay. They have to evaluate it, but he said he thinks it's not that bad," Simmonds said.

Right tackle Walt Walker missed much of the game with cramps and a calf injury, but Simmonds said it was largely "a hydration issue."

Starting guard Jake Griffin moved to center to replace Capogna, with backup Ryan Schmidt taking his place at guard. Senior Jared Carnes stepped in at right tackle for Walker.

Despite the shuffling, the Bulls gave up only two sacks as quarterback Matt Grothe attempted a career-high 39 passes.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Simmonds said. "There are things we can build on, and we have to keep working. It's a marathon and not a sprint."

NEW STARTERS: The large number of returning players was evident in USF's starting lineup, which featured only four first-time starters: redshirt freshman guard Zach Hermann, an East Lake grad, and sophomore tight end Ben Busbee, as the Bulls opened in a two-tight-end set; junior Brouce Mompremier started at weakside linebacker and sophomore Nate Allen started at safety. Allen had his first career interception, picking off a pass deep in Bulls territory to thwart a long Elon drive.

The only true freshmen to play for the Bulls were running backs Mike Ford and Jamar Taylor. Taylor played on special teams, caught a 10-yard pass and had three carries for 4 yards.

NEW LOOKS: In their first game under new offensive coordinator Greg Gregory, the Bulls showed several new looks, most notably a densely-packed, three-back, two-tight end set used twice in the first half. Starting running back Ben Williams lined up behind Grothe, with Ford and Taylor lined up to each side. The play resulted in USF's first touchdown, a 1-yard pass from Grothe to Ford.

TRIBUTE: USF players wore two small black stickers on the back of their helmets with the initials "KD" and "JC," a tribute to running back Keeley Dorsey, who collapsed and died during a team conditioning workout in January, and former USF defensive back Javan Camon, who died after a collision in an indoor football game in Daytona Beach in February.

THIS AND THAT: USF will rotate game captains each week, but Saturday's four were seniors Ben Moffitt, Trae Williams, Nick Capogna and Amarri Jackson. ... Receiver Courtney Denson, who caught just one pass in the previous two seasons, caught two for 36 yards, including a 27-yard grab. ... Elon's 34 pass completions is the second-most ever by a USF opponent (Liberty, 2001).

Times correspondent Brendan Galella contributed to this report.

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I saw Dontavia Bogan on the field for at least one play.  He was the other true frosh to see time.  We also had all those RS Frosh play in their first game.  Guys like Okolie, Ketchel, Mitchell, Alcin, McQueen, Peguese, Douglas, and Samuels.  Lots of guys got game experience last night for the first time.  And of course, two new guys to USF, McKenzie and Spires played as well.

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