Holtz, bolts make history: USF beats Notre Dame
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It took six hours and the first two weather delays in 123 years of Notre Dame football, but USF and coach Skip Holtz made history of their own Saturday night, knocking off No. 16 Notre Dame with a 23-20 win as Holtz returned to his alma mater.
Four times, USF's defense came up with stops inside its 15-yard line without giving up points, including a 96-yard fumble-return touchdown by Kayvon Webster to set the tone for the game. Notre Dame's offense easily outgained the Bulls, but quarterback B.J. Daniels engineered a clutch 80-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter for a 23-7 lead.
Holtz, who played as a walk-on at Notre Dame in 1986 and returned to coach on his father Lou's staff from 1990-93, became the first Notre Dame graduate since 1940 to come into South Bend and beat the Fighting Irish.
"I think it speaks volumes about these players and the way they have bought in and competed their tails off when so many people on the outside wouldn't believe in them," Holtz said. "They way they stayed poised, calm. There were a lot of opportunities to flinch today, but (I'm) really proud of the way they handled themselves."
The Bulls held on despite two momentum-sapping delays, with a two-hour break after USF held a 16-0 halftime lead, then a 45-minute break with less than five minutes remaining. On the first play back after the second delay, USF senior safety Jerrell Young -- who forced the fumble Webster returned -- intercepted a Notre Dame pass.
Notre Dame got a late touchdown pass from Tommy Rees to Michael Floyd with 21 seconds left, but the onsides kick was recovered by USF's Lindsey Lamar and the Bulls ran out the final 19 seconds.
"We really wanted this win for the program. We knew Coach Holtz really wanted it," said Young, a Gibbs graduate. "It's a big step, with Notre Dame and their history and all."
Notre Dame Stadium -- with 80,795 fans in attendance -- was completely evacuated twice by school officials, with both teams sequestered to their locker rooms until officials deem it safe to resume play.
USF, a 10-point underdog, built a 16-0 lead because of three Notre Dame miscues -- twice, the Fighting Irish had third-and-goal plays that resulted in turnovers, the first being a fumble stripped by Young that was scooped up and returned 96 yards by cornerback Kayvon Webster. It was the longest defensive play in Bulls history, and the longest fumble return ever against Notre Dame.
USF got a 49-yard field goal by kicker Maikon Bonani on its next possession, then settled for three again after Terrence Mitchell returned a Notre Dame punt 34 yards. When Notre Dame looked to score again, quarterback Dayne Crist had a pass intercepted by linebacker DeDe Lattimore in the end zone to thwart another drive. After one quarter, USF led 13-0 despite having been outgained 152-62 by Notre Dame.
The Bulls got another break in the second quarter when Theo Riddick fumbled a punt return and USF receiver Victor Marc recovered the fumble on the Notre Dame 19-yard line, setting up a third Bonani field goal.
Notre Dame outgained the Bulls 508-254, with receiver Michael Floyd catching 12 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Another was called back by a holding penalty, and five plays later, Lattimore got his interception.
And while the weather delay was a historic one for Notre Dame, so too was the upset for Holtz. The last time a Notre Dame graduate took a team into South Bend and won was 1940, when Iowa coach Eddie Anderson -- who played with legendary George Gipp in South Bend -- pulled it off.
"It is great to come back to a university that has meant so much to me and so much to my family," Holtz said. "I have great respect for this university and institution, but I'm really proud of South Florida and the way these young men came in here and competed. It's a step in the right direction for us."