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South Florida respects Auburn

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Times Sports Staff pmarsh9485@msn.com

Bulls have beaten some big boys, but Tigers are different

AUBURN - Nobody at South Florida is soft-selling it. Nobody is saying it's just another game.

The Bulls, who played their first football game on Sept. 6, 1997, have some big wins. They routed Louisville 45-14 on Nov. 24, 2005. They went on the road and beat No. 7 West Virginia last season.

But they say this week is different. They play Auburn, ranked No. 17 by the Associated Press and No. 13 by the coaches, Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kickoff time on ESPN2 is set for 8 p.m.

Sophomore defensive end George Selvie, who had four sacks in a season-opening 28-13 victory over Division I-AA Elon, put it bluntly.

"This is the biggest game of our lives right now," he said.

He got no argument from his teammates or even from Jim Leavitt, South Florida's coach for all of its short history.

"They are big, they are physical, they can run, they can throw," he said. "(They have a) defense that's very big and strong, linebackers (that can) absolutely fly, (an) outstanding secondary," Leavitt said. "It's all there."

None of that means Leavitt believes his team will be overmatched.

"We have to play great defense, great special teams and we've got a shot to win the ballgame," Leavitt said.

That's just what Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville expected to hear from the coach he's known since before USF pumped up its first football. They talked football when Tuberville was defensive coordinator at Miami and Leavitt was defensive coordinator at Kansas State.

"They will play hard from the first play to the end," Tuberville said. "That's the one thing I know about Jim."

Dual threat quarterback Matt Grothe was freshman of the year in the Big East last season.

Tailback Mike Ford, who twice signed with Alabama, played his first game college on Saturday and gained 83 yards and scored three touchdowns on six carries.

The Bulls run from a spread offense, but they like to run as much as they like to throw.

"They run an offense that basically turns the quarterback into another tailback, plus he can throw it," Tuberville said.

Grothe passed for 2,576 yards and 13 touchdowns and ran for 622 yards and nine touchdowns last season."

Hard-running Ford: Auburn wanted him. Alabama signed him twice. But South Florida got him.

Ford, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound tailback, will be an integral part of South Florida's offense.

Ford got the attention of college coaches even before he ran for a state-record 2,836 yards and scored 37 touchdowns as a Sarasota (Fla.) High School senior in 2004.

"He is going to be a force, not just in the Big East but in college football," Tuberville said. "Mike Ford is a guy we all noticed very quickly."

Ensminger transfers: Redshirt freshman quarterback Steven Ensminger has left the Auburn football program. He will enroll later this week at Louisiana Tech. Ensminger, the son of tight ends coach Steve Ensminger, had been relegated to scout team duty.

No change on Lester: Tuberville said Tuesday he had no news on tailback Brad Lester, who was suspended before Saturday's win over Kansas State.

"It's been in the works for the last few weeks," Tuberville said. "I'm just kind of out of it and watching it as it goes. Brad is practicing and preparing every day to hopefully get back on the field, but that's out of my hands."

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