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USF’s Top 5 Performances: Defensive Line and Linebackers

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In this edition of top 5 performances, we flip to the defensive side of the ball and look at the front seven

Towson v South Florida Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr. /Getty Images

On the third edition of Top Five Performances, we will be taking a look at the defensive linemen and the linebackers.

Similar to the offensive line, we will look at the defensive line as a unit and find those performances where they stuffed runs, created turnovers, and put pressure and got sacks on quarterbacks.

Then, we will look at individual linebacker performances where these players did it all for the Bulls on these games.

DEFENSIVE LINE Honorable Mention

USF vs Kentucky Wesleyan 1997, the Bulls in their first-ever game, held their opponent to 36 net rushing yards and seven sacks, setting the precedent for years to come.

#5 USF vs C. 2005

In the inaugural meeting between USF and C., the visiting Golden Knights came to Tampa bolstering an 0-2 record and got hit by a wall of Green and Gold. C. mustered 45 net yards on the ground on 20 carries, totaling 2.2 yards per carry.

Future Heisman candidate Kevin Smith rushed for 0 (Zero) yards. The Golden Knight’s game plan was to throw the ball, but QB Steven Moffatt was sacked four times on the way to a 31-14 defeat in front of the second largest home crowd in USF history.

Although the defensive line rotates pretty frequently, the front four this game was Jon Simmons, Allen Cray, Tim Jones, and Terrance Royal.

#4 USF vs Charleston Southern 2003

In a game where USF held an opponent to a program record -52 yards rushing, the Charleston Southern Buccaneers came to Raymond James Stadium and put up one of the worst rushing performances the stadium has ever seen.

That is not a typo either, the Buccaneers netted -52 yards for the entire game on 39 rushing attempts for a comical -1.6 yards a carry. Although the Bulls got six sacks for -41 yards, Charleston Southern lost 60 yards running the ball.

According to USF’s official stat book, Travis Mays, Robert Adams, and Bowe Butler were the only Buccaneers to gain positive yards, netting 17 between the three running backs. CSU quarterbacks Collin Drafts and Clint Chappell lost 72 yards between sacks and failed attempts at running the ball. The Bulls forced four fumbles and recovered two of them to route the Bucs, 55-7.

The Starting four consisted of Tim Jones, Cedric Battles, Lee Roy Selmon Jr., and Terrance Royal.

#3 USF vs FAU 2010

In another game in which the Bulls set another record, USF forced seven sacks against the Owls, netting 65 yards lost on FAU QB Jeff Van Camp, and holding the Owls to only 72 net yards rushing.

Craig Marshall had six tackles and a sack, Cory Grissom had two tackles, Terrell McClain had two tackles, and David Bedford had four tackles and a sack for the Bulls that night.

Although the stat book looks weak by the D-Line, Craig Marshall and Terrell McClain’s presence was felt all night by FAU, including this 20 yard sack where McClaine forced Van Camp out of the pocket and Marshall cleaned him up.

#2 USF vs Temple 2017

This game could go down as one of the best defensive showings by a USF defense in school history.

USF held Temple to negative four yards rushing on 33 carries, which means Temple was averaging -0.1 yards a carry. Statistically, the d-line wasn’t the star of the show, as the secondary and linebackers got the turnovers and sacks on the evening, but anyone watching the game could see that the D-Line was getting pressure and forcing the running backs of Temple to scramble just to get back to the line of scrimmage.

Deadrin Senat, Mike Love, Greg Reaves, Bruce Hector, Kevin Bronson, Kirk Livingstone, and Kevin Kegler all got credit for at least one tackle during the game and could be found flying to the football on every single play.

My personal favorite occurred in the middle of the 3rd quarter when Temple QB Logan Marchi mishandles a snap and gets crushed by Greg Reaves when the camera pans to offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude who is visibly shook by what just happened in front of him.

#1 USF vs FSU 2009

In what could arguably be described as one of the biggest wins in USF history, The Bulls marched up to Tallahassee and defeated in-state rival Florida State 17-7 to cement themselves as a force to be reckoned with and add another coach to the list of “Loses to USF then gets fired/pushed out”.

Forcing five fumbles and recovering four of them, the running game from Florida State couldn’t get anything going. The Noles struggled to run the ball all game, having 19 net rushing yards for the day. The Bulls would had five more sacks on Christian Ponder and a goal line stand to boot. The goal line stand proved to be one of the biggest moments in USF history.

Early in the 2nd quarter with the score tied 0-0, Christian Ponder connected with Burt Reed to the USF three yard line. FSU has four chances to score, starting with an incomplete roll out pass on first down, then three straight run stuffs to keep the score at 0-0.

If FSU scores there and gets momentum inside Doak, we could be talking about a completely different game, but the defensive line consisting of some of the biggest names in USF history with future draft picks Jason Pierre-Paul, George Selvie, and Terrell McClain.

JPP had four tackles, one sack and three tackles for loss, Selvie had four tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss and a fumble recovery, McClain also had four tackles, one of which was a tackle for loss.

The rest of the defensive line had a great day as well, with Aaron Harris and Craig Marshall getting three sacks between them.

Linebackers

Unfortunately, some of the best linebackers performances in USF history ended with the Bulls coming up short offensively. Some of the biggest moments in USF football were because of a linebacker play, so we will be going back to individual performances here.

Honorable Mention:

Four linebackers have eclipsed 18 tackles in a single game, which is good for the second most in a single game. Maurice Jones in 2003 vs Alabama, Tyrone McKenzie in 2007 vs Pittsburgh, Kion Wilson in 2009 vs Rutgers, and DeDe Lattimore in 2013 vs Rutgers.

Auggie Sanchez also deserves an honorable mention for his linebacker play the last couple of years.

#5 DeDe Lattimore vs Rutgers 2011 (11 tackles, three sacks, four tackles for loss)

This game performance could very well have been switched with the game in 2013, however the reason I chose this performance from DeDe was his ability to get in the backfield.

He totaled 11 tackles, four tackles for a loss (three of those were sacks) and a few QB Hits. DeDe and company helped hold Rutgers to negative seven yards rushing, however the secondary struggled in the second half and Rutgers was able to come back from a 17-3 deficit defeat USF 20-17 in overtime. Rutgers ruins everything.

#4 Stephen Nicholas vs Kansas 2006 (15 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 pass break up)

Stephen Nicholas holds the USF record for most career tackles for loss with 53.5, the man was always in the backfield disrupting plays and hitting quarterbacks.

Snake amassed 20 sacks in his USF career which is good for second all time behind George Selvie’s 28.5. This game was an ugly game through and through, with the score being tied 0-0 at halftime.Neither team could find the end zone even though both teams wound up with over 300 offensive yards.

Nicholas did his part to keep the Bulls in it, accumulating 15 tackles (13 of them were solo tackles). At one point late in the first quarter, Nicholas was involved in tackling a Jayhawk in five out of six plays, with four of them being solo tackles.

The Bulls ended up dropping this game 13-7 and I think we can go back to forgetting this game ever existed.

#3 Maurice Jones vs Alabama 2003 (18 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack)

As previously mentioned, Maurice Jones is tied with three other players for the most tackles in a game in USF history. Of the bunch, Jones’ was by far the most impressive as he completed all 18 tackles solo according to the official USF stat book.

The Bulls went to Legion Field to take on the Crimson Tide in Mike Shula’s first ever game with Alabama. The Bulls on paper were completely outmatched, but that didn’t stop Jones from making play after play to try to keep the Bulls in the game.

Late in the first quarter, Alabama was driving the ball and on third and ten in USF territory, Jones sacked Alabama Quarterback Brodie Croyle to push the Tide back a little further which resulted in a missed field goal by an Alabama kicker (shocking, I know).

At halftime it was 17-17, but Alabama was able to run away with it in the second half, winning 40-17.

#2 Ben Moffitt vs West Virginia 2007 (Nine tackles, two interceptions, one touchdown, two TFL)

In a program-defining win, Ben Moffitt created a program-defining moment.

In a game against a high-powered offense, a Heisman caliber quarterback and running back, and the highest ranked team the Bulls had played at home, USF stood tall and created history.

In the first quarter, with a minute and a half left, West Virginia had the ball on their own 28-yard line. Pat White dropped back to pass and...well everyone’s probably seen it before. Ben Moffitt returns the batted pass for a touchdown to electrify the sold out Raymond James Stadium.

Images and videos of the play surface to this day and many accompany that play as the best moment in USF history. Moffitt could have very easily had another pick-six had he not gotten tripped up on an interception early in the fourth quarter.

Against a speedy Mountaineer offense, Moffitt chased Slaton, White, and Brown all night and was able to create constant pressure.

#1 Kawika Mitchell vs Oklahoma 2002 (12 tackles, five TFL, two sacks, one forced fumble)

One of the all-time greats, Kawika Mitchell transferred from the University of Georgia, and fit like a glove in USF’s defense.

Mitchell finished his career as USF’s all-time leading tackler until unseated by Auggie Sanchez in 2017, and was on the Butkus Award list his junior and senior year.

In the first nationally televised game for the Bulls, Mitchell’s name could be heard all day, causing havoc in the backfield for the Sooner offense. I can go on and on about how fantastic he played this game, getting 12 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble, but his film speaks for itself.

On the next edition of this series, we will look at the cornerbacks and safeties before getting to long awaited top special team performances of all time (upset alert a special teams performance from 2017 does make the list).