The University of South Florida defense knew exactly how dangerous the Bowling Green offense was entering Saturday’s game. However, that didn’t stop the Bulls from shutting down one of the premier offenses in the nation.
One of the key units on the Bulls’ defense was the secondary. The defensive backs were led by safety J.R. Reed, who had 12 tackles, one interception and two key pass breakups, one coming on fourth-and-12 with 8:54 remaining in the game to help the Bulls to a 29-7 victory.
“I played a complete game (Saturday),” Reed said. “I love it when they pass, and I was hyped up before this game because I knew they would go to the area that I specialized in. I thought I could have intercepted a few more of those balls, but the receivers were playing defense on me because the balls kept coming my way.”
The Bulls’ secondary play was key, holding the Bowling Green passing attack to just over half (134 yards) its season average (241.7). This performance was much better than last week’s against Memphis, when the Tigers threw for 320 yards and three touchdowns.
“We stepped up tremendously,” Reed said. “Memphis challenged us deep on the outside fades and the short routes and kind of messed up our confidence, but we came in (Saturday) and got that back.”
“We had a good game plan and everybody just played their hardest,” linebacker Maurice Jones said. “The secondary was on their P’s and Q’s all night, and this is the best they’ve played all year.”
Along with Reed’s first-quarter interception, the secondary forced one more turnover in the game. Defensive back John Miller caused and recovered a fumble when he hit Bowling Green’s Josh Harris at the USF 4-yard line midway through the third quarter, stopping the Falcons’ drive and any chance to get back in the game.
USF’s defense surrendered only seven points to a team ranked third in the nation in scoring, averaging 44 points a game. The only score the Bulls allowed came after a blocked punt, and Bowling Green only had to march 18 yards into the end zone.
“Bowling Green, let me tell you, has got a tremendous football team,” USF coach Jim Leavitt said. “To hold that team down to just seven points, when the only seven they got was on a short field at the beginning (of the game) is truly remarkable.”
After that series early in the first quarter, the Bulls’ defense shut down one of the most explosive offenses in college football, holding the Falcons to just 226 yards of total offense the entire game.
That is a stellar accomplishment considering Bowling Green was averaging more than 230 yards in both passing and rushing per game (476 total yards, fifth in the nation).
“That was really as good of a defense as I’ve seen play against such a highly explosive offense,” Leavitt said.