For fourth-down stop, Bulls turned to Bear
TAMPA -- The formation that USF's defense used on its fourth-and-inches stop in overtime against Louisville is called "Bear," and that brings a smile to the player lined up front and center, defensive tackle Terrell McClain, who is affectionately known to teammate as "Dancing Bear."
"We just started practicing that this week," McClain said. "It's primarily to stop the run, on fourth and one, fourth and inches. The main objective is to drive the offensive linemen back, try to get 2 yards into the backfield and stop any kind of run inside. You're looking for a stalemate, or 2 yards back. If you get a stalemate or 2 yards back, you come away a winner."
It was a huge stop for USF, and the formation was called as Louisville made the bold decision to go for it on fourth-and-inches at the 5-yard line in the first overtime. Instead of a traditional four-man front, the Bulls tried a new wrinkle, and it worked perfectly.
"We jumped into Bear," defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said. "That was our game plan all week. Bear is two guys on the guards and one on the center. We put Terrell there this week, probably should have called it some more throughout the game, but we saved it enough that when we needed it, it worked. He was on the center, mano e mano."
McClain lined up in the middle, with Julius Forte and Keith McCaskill next to him, and when Louisville quarterback Justin Burke tried to follow his linemen for the short gain he needed, he had no room. As he tried to extend the ball over the pile, he was met by linebacker Mike Lanaris and safeties Jerrell Young and Jon Lejiste, who held him for no gain, setting up Maikon Bonani's game-winning field goal.
"We'll have to see the film, but I hope all those big guys were in there with Lanaris topping it off," Snyder said.
As for Louisville coach Charlie Strong going for it on fourth-and-inches when he could have taken a field goal and asked his defense to hold USF to the same, Snyder said he was "a little bit" surprised, but also understood the possible reasoning behind the bold call.
"You've got the home crowd and a little bit of momentum. We missed the field goal," he said. "I don't know that they felt like their defense could stop our offense."
For USF's defense, it's the third straight win in which they've had to make a fourth-down stop in the final minutes of the game to preserve a victory, and each time, the Bulls have answered the challenge. For a defense once known better for the players who had left for the NFL, it's been a defining three-game streak of late stops.
"It's a great confidence booster," McClain said. "This defense is so much better than last year. With the new package and so much experience on this team, I think we have a good chance."