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 TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -South Florida nose tackle Richard Clebert addressed the question of what the fifth-ranked Bulls have to do to stop the nation's leading rusher in Central Florida's Kevin Smith.
``I don't think of it as the challenge of facing Kevin Smith. I think of it as the challenge of Kevin Smith having to face our defense,'' Clebert said. ``We know that, no matter if it's Reggie Bush or whoever it may be, they have to play the South Florida defense.''
Clebert and his teammates have a good reason to believe they're capable of slowing Smith, who has rushed for 860 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games, when USF hosts UCF Raymond James Stadium on Saturday.
Two weeks ago, the Bulls shut down West Virginia stars Steve Slaton and Pat White to upset the then-No. 5 Mountaineers to propel themselves into the Top 10 for the first time.
West Virginia entered the game averaging 357 yards rushing, but was limited to 188 in a 21-13 loss. Slaton gained 54 on 13 carries.
Smith is averaging a nation-leading 172 yards per game. He's topped 200 yards twice, and his five consecutive outings with at least 100 is a school record.
The 6-foot-1, 211-pound junior did not play against USF a year ago, and only carried twice against the Bulls as a freshman two years ago.
``He's big, he's strong, he has vision,'' USF coach Jim Leavitt said. ``I don't think you can stop the guy, I know that. He's going to get yards, and they run the ball so well. He's a good player.''
USF yields 115.4 yards per game on the ground, but hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher since Rutgers' Ray Rice gained 202 in September 2006. That stretch of 13 games includes a pair of wins over West Virginia and its explosive stars.
Smith, who has 14 career 100-yard games, gained 217 in a season-opening victory over North Carolina State, then ran for 149 in UCF's three-point loss to then-No. 6 Texas in the Knights' second game.
This week, he's coming off a 147-yard performance against East Carolina.
``He's a great player,'' Clebert said. ``I know that he's a great player, but he still has to play our defense.''
Linebacker Tyrone McKenzie agreed.
``It's a great challenge that any defense would be game for, and we're going to have to come with our best game to try and stop him,'' McKenzie said.
``But we're focusing on UCF as a whole. They have a great player, this is true, but he needs an offensive line to block for him, he needs a quarterback to throw him the dump passes, so we know it's not going to be all Kevin Smith.''
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