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Bend-but-don’t-break Bulls defense comes up big

Posted Sep 4, 2011 by Adam Adkins

Updated Sep 3, 2011 at 11:41 PM

Here is a sidebar from Tribune correspondent Michael Manganello:

SOUTH BEND, Ind. It was a bend-but-don’t-break kind of day for the South Florida defense Saturday in a 23-20 victory against Notre Dame.

It didn’t look good for the unit early as the Irish offense marched 79 yards to the USF 1-yard line in seven plays, but safety Jerrell Young changed the tone of the day by stripping Notre Dame running back Jonas Gray. Cornerback Kayvon Webster, also an All-Big East sprinter on the USF track team, scooped the ball up at the 4-yard line and ran 96 yards untouched to give the Bulls an early lead when it looked like the Irish were ready to score easily.

A defense that recovered only five fumbles last season and emphasized creating more turnovers throughout the offseason had created one on its first possession of the season. Webster’s return was the longest fumble return allowed by Notre Dame.

“I hit (Gray), and my teammates held him up,” Young said. “I put my hand down and felt the ball and I just ripped and I felt it come out, and Kayvon did a good job of picking it up on the bounce and taking it all the way.”

That possession was the first of four red zone trips that ended without points for Notre Dame, as the Fighting Irish turned the ball over three times and missed a 30-yard field goal before getting on the board in the third quarter.

“We just had to bend but don’t break, play great zone defense and create turnovers, and we were able to do that today,” USF defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said.

Notre Dame was threatening again with its first possession of the second quarter until DeDe Lattimore intercepted Fighting Irish quarterback Dayne Crist. USF would miss a 52-yard field goal on the ensuing possession, but Notre Dame had seemingly thrown away 14 points and the Bulls had created two turnovers in crucial moments.

The Irish inserted Tommy Rees at quarterback for the second half, but their luck didn’t turn immediately.

After a deflected pass, middle linebacker Michael Lanaris dove to reel in an interception on his 4-yard line and again keep the Irish out of the end zone from close range.

The Bulls defense didn’t dominate, but it did well enough to create five turnovers. The final blow came on the first play after the second restart. Young created another turnover, intercepting Rees in Irish territory.

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