TAMPA — It was one of the most dismal statistics from the University of South Florida’s 3-9 meltdown in 2012.
It was the lowest figure in the Football Bowl Subdivision, part of a minus-19 turnover ratio and a major explanation for USF’s poor showing.
Saturday night against Florida Atlantic, in USF’s third game this season, the Bulls equaled that number.
After a USF defender knocked a pass away from an Owls receiver in the first quarter, the ball popped high in the air, and Bulls senior MLB DeDe Lattimore leaped to snag the interception, the second of his career. Lattimore had his other interception in the 2011 season opener at Notre Dame.
USF’s first interception this season was by freshman DB Johnny Ward against McNeese State.
True freshman starter
With junior Reshard Cliett (shoulder) not available, freshman LB Nigel Harris of Hillsborough High got his first start. Harris had tackles on consecutive plays, including one for a loss, during the second quarter. He had a team-leading five tackles overall at halftime.
Harris is the eighth former Hillsborough player to start for USF, along with current P Mattias Ciabatti, WR/RB Lindsey Lamar (2009-12), LB Ronnie McCullough (2004-05), WR Terrence Mitchell (2010-12), RB Ricky Ponton (2005-06), DB J.R. Reed (2000-03) and OL Joey Sipp (1997-2000).
Feeling a rush
Senior RB Marcus Shaw, who registered 145 yards in the opener against McNeese State, had his second career 100-yard rushing game by halftime. Boosted by a 44-yard run, Shaw had 14 carries for 108 yards in the first half. But he was dumped for a 6-yard loss on fourth-and-goal from the FAU 1-yard line. He appeared to have the corner on a sweep on the left side, but he hesitated and was stopped by Owls LB Randell Johnson.
“Marcus has turned around as a person, as a student, as a football player,” Bulls coach Willie Taggart said before the game. “He changed the way he has done things, and he’s getting results. He’s a highly competitive kid and we’ve been impressed with him.’’
Senior PK Marvin Kloss connected on a career-long 50-yard field goal to open USF’s scoring with 5:07 remaining in the first quarter. Kloss, mostly a kickoff specialist during previous seasons, also hit a 49-yarder at Michigan State.
Kloss’ 50-yarder tied for the fourth-longest in USF history (Maikon Bonani in 2012 and Eric Schwartz in 2009 also hit 50-yarders).
USF entered Saturday night’s game with a 13-6 record against opponents from the state of Florida. … In the first instance of the NCAA’s new “targeting’’ rule during a USF game this season, FAU junior LB Andrae Kirk was ejected after a second-quarter hit to the head on Bulls sophomore QB Steven Bench. … Senior FS JaQuez Jenkins was taken to the locker room with a knee injury in the second quarter. Jenkins, on crutches during the second half, was replaced by junior Torrel Saffold, a junior-college transfer. … During pregame on the Raymond James Stadium message board, photos of the starters were shown. USF’s QB is senior Bobby Eveld, but a photo of his brother, Tommy, was shown. … Redshirt freshman OL Isaac Edwards (Jesuit High) was among the FAU starters. … USF has a bye next week before preparing for its Sept. 28 home game against the Miami Hurricanes (2-0), who host Savannah State next Saturday. USF is 1-4 all-time against Miami. This is the last scheduled meeting in the series, but Bulls athletic director Doug Woolard said he wants to revive it.