USF defeats UCF in 'I-4 War,' ties school mark with eighth win in row

"I like to win more than I do lose, that I know. And I like the position we're in right now, but I'm not thinking about all that other stuff. I'm really not," Leavitt said after Saturday's 64-12 rout of Central Florida.

"I get distracted like everybody else, but I try to keep them to a minimum. We've only played one game in the Big East, and our goal from the beginning was the Big East championship. And I want to tell you something, it's going to be a barn burner these next number of weeks."

Playing at home for the first time since climbing into the top 10, the Bulls showed they're adjusting nicely to their new role of national title contender. The victory was their school record-tying eighth straight.

George Selvie, the nation's sack leader, led a swarming defense that corralled the nation's leading rusher, and Matt Grothe threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more to help the Bulls (6-0) extend the best start in USF's relatively brief football history.

Kevin Smith, who began the day averaging 172 yards per game rushing for Central Florida, was limited to 55 on 18 carries. The junior, who had gained at least 100 in a UCF-record five straight games, spent much of the second half on the bench after the score got out of hand.

USF's defense extended its streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher to 14 games. The Bulls haven't allowed a back to reach the plateau since Ray Rice of Rutgers gained 212 against them early last season.

"It was a great challenge," Selvie said, mindful that the Bulls face Rice again Thursday night. "We love it, but we've got to keep it that way all season."

Grothe completed 15 of 28 passes for 212 yards, including TD throws of 9 yards to Taurus Johnson and 7 yards to Cedric Hill. He also scored on a pair of 6-yard runs before being replaced by Grant Gregory with USF leading 43-10 in the third quarter.

Selvie continued his torrid start with three more tackles for losses, giving him a school single-season record 20½ in six games. He had one sack, his total to 11½, and also forced a fumble that led to Grothe's first TD.

UCF (3-3) turned the ball over three times in the first quarter, a continuation of a sloppy second-half performance the previous week at East Carolina. The Knights led that game 28-17 before five third-quarter turnovers contributed to a 52-38 loss.

"They took it to us today," UCF coach George O'Leary said. "Life goes on tomorrow, but it's a disappointing loss from the standpoint of the amount of time we put in to try to get some things done right."

USF improved to 3-0 in the series that some fans refer to as the "I-4 War" because Interstate 4 is the main road connecting Tampa and Orlando.

The schools, located less than 100 miles apart, are natural geographical rivals who didn't meet for the first time until two years ago because of USF's reluctance to commit to the idea.

The teams will meet again in 2008, but the future of the series is uncertain after that.

UCF, which dropped to 0-18 all-time against ranked opponents, dug a deep hole for itself in an error-filled first half. The Knights lost two fumbles and an interception to set up 17 points, and Smith lost his footing in his own end zone for a safety that helped USF build a 29-10 lead at the break.

Grothe topped 100 yards rushing for the second straight week. The 6-foot, 213-pound sophomore broke two tackles on his 6-yard TD run in the second quarter, then spun out of the grasp of a defender to score again to put the Bulls up 36-10 early in the third.

UCF benched quarterback Kyle Israel briefly in the second quarter, but backup Michael Greco didn't have any better luck against a relentless pass rush. Israel finished 5-for-11 for 13 yards and one interception, while Greco was 6-of-16 for 71 yards.

The Knights scored their only touchdown without putting the ball in the air, marching 63 yards on the ground with Smith carrying six times for 39 yards and Israel finishing the eight-play drive with a 2-yard run.

"I can't believe anybody would beat us like that," Israel said. "With a loss like this, really all you can do is move past it. ... You've just got to give credit to South Florida. They played like where they're ranked."

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2006-2007, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved


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