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Road warriors: USF upsets No. 16 Notre Dame, 23-20

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 08:57 PM

It took more than six hours, two weather delays and a switch of television networks, but the University of South Florida did it again.

The Bulls beat a BCS team on the road for the fifth straight year, knocking off 16th-ranked Notre Dame 23-20 in South Bend, Ind., and forcing five turnovers for the biggest season-opening victory in school history.

Playing where head coach Skip Holtz went to college and worked as an assistant coach for his father, Lou, and wearing decals on their helmets honoring Lee Roy Selmon, the Bulls forced three turnovers in the red zone to stun the Fighting Irish.

B.J. Daniels completed 18 of 30 passes for 128 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. USF did not have a turnover in the game.

Weather forced more than a two-hour delay at halftime and another stoppage in the fourth quarter. During the second break, NBC abandoned its national television coverage and moved the game to the Versus Netork, a cable sports channel.

Daniels hit Evan Landi for a two-yard touchdown pass with a little more than 11 minutes left that gave USF a 23-7 lead when it looked like the Irish were seizing momentum.

Notre Dame answered with a one-yard TD run by Cierre Wood, but the two point conversion failed and the Irish trailed 23-13, needed two scores to tie the game or take the lead.

The second weather delay hit, and after a USF punt when play resumed 42-minutes later -- on the new TV channel -- the Irish commited their fifth turnover with 4:08 to play, an interception by USF's Jerrell Young at the Notre Dame 30.

The Bulls punted and Notre Dame drove 95 yards and a 8-yard TD pass from Tommy Rees to Michael Floyd, but by then there were just 21 seconds left to play.

Lindsay Lamar recovered the ensuing onsides kick with 19 second left, and the upset was secure.

USF led 16-7 after three quarters after Notre Dame finally got on the scoreboard aftercoming up empty on four trips to the red zone.

The Irish made two trips inside the Bulls 20-yard line in the third quarter behind quarterback Rees, who started the second half in place of Dayne Crist. However, the first trip ended in an interception by USF linebacker Michael Lanaris. The second ended with Notre Dame kicker David Ruffer missing a 30-yard field goal.

Rees did manage to hit standout Michael Floyd for a 24-yard touchdown pass, and he completed 10 of 14 passes for 140 yards in the period.

Rees finished the game 24 of 34 for 296 yards and two TDs, but also threw two picks. Crist was pulled after going 7 of 15 for 95 yards with one interception.

 

USF’s first three possession in the third quarter ended in punts, and the Bulls managed just two first downs during that stretch.

The Bulls lead 16-0 at halftime, thanks mostly to some big moments from the defense that produced three Notre Dame turnovers.

USF got off to a great start, ending the first quarter with a 13-0 lead.

The biggest play came from the Bulls defense, which didn’t get off to a great start but made up for it in a huge way. The Irish marched right down the field on their opening possession, but on a third-and-goal play from the USF 1-yard line, Bulls safety Jerrell Young stripped the ball from running back Jonas Gray and cornerback Kayvon Webster picked up the loose ball and returned it 96 yards for a touchdown that stunned the Notre Dame Stadium crowd. It was the longest fumble return ever surrendered by an Irish team.

USF’s offense helped extend the lead with two first-quarter drives resulting in field goals.
However, the Bulls missed an opportunity on their second one, getting three cracks at the end zone from inside the Notre Dame 5 before settling for another Maikon Bonani kick facing fourth down from the Irish 1 that gave USF a 13-0 lead. Bonani's first field goal was from 49 yards out and made the score 10-0.

The Bulls defense came up big for the second time in the red zone in the second quarter, with linebacker DeDe Lattimore stepping in front of a Dayne Crist pass in the end zone for an interception.

Bonani added another field goal after Notre Dame's third turnover of the first half, a fumbled punt, to put USF up 16-0 at the inermission, which lasted more than two hours when the game was postponed for the first time by lightning and severe weather.

According to Notre Dame officials, it was the first time in the program’s 123-year history a game was delayed because of weather. And then it happened again in the fourth quarter.

Notre Dame outgained USF 191-144 in the first half. USF quarterback BJ Daniels was 8-for-14 passing for 61 yards and led the Bulls with 39 rushing yards on nine carries in the first half. Sterling Griffin led the receivers with five receptions for 48 yards. Irish running back Cierre Wood had 84 yards on 15 carries.

USF’s players wore a No. 63 decal on their helmets today in honor of former athletic director Lee Roy Selmon, who remains hospitalized in Tampa after suffering a stroke Friday. Selmon was scheduled to attend the game, according to athletic director Doug Woolard.

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