TAMPA — As bad as things were for the USF defense in a scrimmage a week earlier, it played that much better in the final scrimmage of the spring.
After surrendering 10 touchdowns and 550 passing yards in the Green and Gold Bowl last week, the defense cut those numbers down to five touchdowns and 394 passing yards Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium.
Led by an energetic front four that put pressure on starting quarterback B.J. Daniels all night, the unit was motivated.
Senior defensive end Ryne Giddins had three sacks and brought pressure that forced Daniels — 9-of-26, 88 yards — into a number of rushed throws. Daniels also committed a safety when he was called for intentional grounding in the end zone in the first half.
Though the defense was far from perfect — it dropped a handful of interception chances and couldn't come up with multiple fumbles — the unit finally forced a turnover in the fourth quarter, when cornerback Joshua Brown made a leaping interception in the end zone on a jump ball intended for wide receiver Sterling Griffin. Brown made amends for a dropped interception and a subsequent unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he drew after he kicked the ball out of frustration.
"I think we did outstanding," Giddins said, "but we have got to eliminate dumb penalties. We dropped the interception and kicked the ball. We can't do stuff like that. That's why we lose games."
Coach Skip Holtz was impressed with three young members of his secondary, including redshirt freshman cornerback Kenneth Durden, who returned a bad snap on a field goal 59 yards for a score.
"I think the emergence of those three corners (Brown, Durden and Fidel Montgomery), to add them to the mix with (returning) George Baker and Kayvon Webster … creates not just one or two guys who can run, but really looking at a top five and having a lot of depth with the (number) 2s and 3s out there," Holtz said.
On offense, backup quarterbacks Matt Floyd and Bobby Eveld outplayed Daniels. Floyd went 14-of-27 for 170 yards and an interception. Eveld, who was 12-of-19 for 136 yards, threw the only touchdown pass of the night, a 4-yard slant to Griffin in the fourth quarter.
Running back Marcus Shaw had perhaps the most impressive night on offense, with 13 carries for 61 yards and two short touchdown runs. Receiver Andre Davis, who had a strong showing at the previous scrimmage, made the big play of the night on a 41 -yard catch along the left sideline as he was being interfered with by linebacker Antoine Pozniak.