TAMPA — After scoring a touchdown on an interception in the University of South Florida’s loss to Miami last week, defensive end Julius Forte hoped it would be a sign of things to come.
“I hope an avalanche starts,” he said.
Saturday night against Cincinnati, the ball started rolling.
First, a blocked Bearcats field goal was scooped up by freshman safety Nate Godwin and returned 75 yards for a touchdown. Later, it was Forte himself reading a reverse and ripping the ball out of Chris Moore’s hands, allowing linebacker DeDe Lattimore to pick it up and carry it 10 yards for another USF touchdown.
Safety Mark Joyce did his part to help the avalanche grow with a pair of interceptions, becoming the first USF player with multiple interceptions in a game since Nate Allen during the 2009 season.
“We’ve been working on that (field goal block) for a while now,” Joyce said. “We put it in in practice a couple weeks ago, but we hadn’t really run it in a game. I knew they were going to get it, so when I saw them block it and Nate pick it up and get off to the races, it felt great.”
The Bulls built a 23-6 halftime lead without an offensive touchdown. The avalanche was on.
Coach Willie Taggart and the Bulls placed a premium on turnovers all season, but they had been very much on the wrong side of the turnover differential before Saturday. During its 0-4 start, USF watched opposing defenses score six touchdowns.
USF’s offense turned the ball over on its second snap of the night, but was careful with the ball for the rest of the game. The defense created four turnovers, plus the blocked field goal and an important stop on fourth-and-inches inside its own 10-yard line late in the fourth quarter.
“It’s getting to be a habit (scoring on defense), it’s been a long time coming,” Lattimore said after the win. “(The early turnovers) were crucial. They set the tone. … It felt like there was (an avalanche) tonight.”