During the rainy Friday night at Raymond James Stadium, USF needed a defensive third-down stop late in the fourth quarter to try and seal the win. Sophomore defensive tackle Derrick Calloway was able to slip past the Husky offensive line and get the sack with authority.
Though the Bulls (2-2, 1-0) gave up a late score, their defense was dominant as they went on to beat UConn (1-3, 0-1) 17-14 in their first conference game of the season, giving up only 145 yards of total offense.
In front of an announced crowd of 28,273, the Bulls set the tone early against the Huskies with a sack fumble by senior corner Chris Dunkley on the opening drive. USF turned that into points as freshman running back Marlon Mack punched it in from the two-yard-line with 11:22 left in the first quarter.
“Coach Bresnahan called the cat blitz and I just executed it,” Dunkley said.
After forcing a three and out, the Bulls would face a 4-and-10 and with the rainy conditions throughout the game, coach Willie Taggart wasn’t taking any chances.
Sophomore quarterback Mike White connected with sophomore receiver Rodney Adams on a corner route for a 30-yard touchdown with 3:24 left in the first quarter.
“We didn’t want to hold back and be conservative,” Taggart said. “It was fourth down and they executed. Mike threw the ball well in the wet, and it was great for Rodney to get the touchdown.”
White would finish the game 10-18 for 113 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
The Bulls leaned on their rushing attack with Mack leading the way with 31 carries for 103 yards and a score.
“We fed (Mack) the ball, and he did great things for us,” Taggart said.
USF’s defense was the driving force behind this victory giving up only 14 points and six first downs. The UConn offense didn’t cross the 50-yard-line until their last drive of the game.
“You can’t let the conditions bother us,” Dunkley said. “It’s raining for everyone; we just had to play through it.”
Part of the defense’s success came from junior punter Mattias Ciabatti, who was able to pin the Huskies inside their own 20-yard-line on five of his six punts, tying a single-game USF record.
“I think tonight, Ciabatti showed everyone what he’s capable of doing in those conditions,” Taggart said. “He was punting it like it was dry.”
The Bulls take on Wisconsin next week in Madison.