CFB: USF Defense Shines In Loss To UCF

TAMPA, NOV. 28, 2014 – The USF defense posted a shutout in the second half, but the Bulls weren’t able to cash in on three turnovers in a 16-0 loss to UCF before a Senior Day crowd of 36,963 at Raymond James Stadium on Friday afternoon.

“We had opportunities in that football game that we didn’t take advantage of and it cost us,” head coach Willie Taggart said. “We had penalties that cost us in that game, things you can’t do against a winning football team. And we didn’t make the plays we needed to make to win the game.”

UCF (8-3, 6-1) came in averaging 29 points and 363.7 yards per game before the Bulls (4-8, 3-5) limited the Knights to 295 total yards and 131 yards in the second half. Junior safety Jamie Byrd (Dade City, Fla.) started the turnover trend with an interception at the beginning of the third quarter and junior defensive end Demetrius Hill (Kankakee, Ill.) and sophomore linebacker Nigel Harris (Tampa) followed with fumble recoveries.

“They got turnovers for us to give the ball back to the offense, so we could go down and try to score. I’m sure it’s very frustrating for everyone,” Taggart said.

Byrd’s second interception of his stellar debut season with USF came on the opening drive of the second half and set the Bulls up at midfield. Byrd led the Bulls with 95 total tackles this season. USF wasn’t able to capitalize on the turnover after being stopped on fourth-and-1 at the UCF 24.

Down 16-0 late in the third quarter, the Bulls needed a big play on defense to shift the momentum and got it. Hill’s first-career fumble recovery and return set the Bulls up at the UCF 14. USF failed to find the end zone, however, when tight end Mike McFarland’s pass on a fake field goal attempt fell incomplete.

The USF defense kept its second-half shutout going with 9:24 remaining when the Bulls forced their third turnover. Junior linebacker C.J. Garye (Tallahassee) forced a fumble on a carry by Micah Reed and Harris recovered it at the USF 17. Harris posted a game-high nine tackles and finished the season ranked second on the team with 75 total tackles.

Thanks in part to a 27-yard catch by junior tight end Sean Price (Citra, Fla.), USF drove all the way down to the UCF 1 but turned the ball over on downs following a costly personal foul call on second down.

“Those guys moved the ball down there and we didn’t get any points, it’s very frustrating for everyone,” Taggart said. “You punch it in there and get some points and it’s a different ballgame, especially for our team. We needed to do that against a good football team.”

Despite the loss, a trio of players on the offensive side of the ball capped off highly productive campaigns.

Senior and proud Tampa native Andre Davis posted a team-leading six catches for 57 yards against UCF, which added to his amazing career numbers. Davis owns 13 of the program’s receiving records, including career yards (2,136), career catches (153), consecutive games played with a catch (39) and single-season receiving yards (735, 2013).

“Not necessarily breaking records, but I came in here to make big plays and make plays for my team,” Davis said. “The records came with it. I appreciate all my teammates.”

Marlon Mack became the third Bull and the first freshman to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. The Sarasota native finished with 1,041 yards, which ranks third all-time at USF behind Andre Hall’s 1,374 yards in 2005 and 1,357 yards in 2004.

Senior receiver Deonte Welch (Williston, Fla.) passed the 1,000-yard mark Friday and finished his career with 1,008 yards.

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