TAMPA — For all intents, USF scored a flash knockdown Saturday. Before many in the USF home-record audience of 69,383 had found their seats, FSU's defense was trying to find its metaphorical mouthpiece.
Second in Division I-A in total defense entering Raymond James Stadium, the Seminoles watched the Bulls slice them for 62 yards on the first 10 plays, capped by a 32-yard Maikon Bonani field goal.
"It was a lot of stuff we haven't practiced and haven't seen," Seminoles defensive tackle and Alonso High alumnus Demonte McAllister said.
But the Seminoles defense arrived just as dusk exited. The knockdown was followed by a clampdown in a 30-17 FSU win.
Though special teams gaffes and offensive glitches kept things close for the better part of three quarters, FSU's defense quickly transitioned from vulnerable to vicious. In the second and third quarters, USF totaled 29 yards on 22 plays.
"The defense came out and really started dominating the line of scrimmage again, got settled down again," said FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, whose team held USF to 124 yards the last three quarters after giving up 144 in the first.
"We were playing too loose in the beginning, too much man and not making (plays) in zone coverage. I think they settled down, got their feet on the ground and started playing much better."
The culmination, of course, came on the last play of the third quarter, moments after USF quarterback B.J. Daniels exited momentarily after taking a shot to the crown of the helmet.
On third and 12 from the USF 23, defensive end Cornellius "Tank" Carradine (nine tackles, 1 1/2 sacks) swooped in from the right edge and blindsided backup Matt Floyd, jarring the ball loose. Linebacker Christian Jones scooped it up and raced in for the touchdown to make it 30-10.
"Oh, it was huge man," Fisher said. "I mean, it was huge."
USF did not convert another third down the remainder of the night. After converting on three of their first five third-down tries, the Bulls went 2-for-10 the rest of the game.
"My hats off to them boys, because they came out and played physical, they were out there ready to go and ready to play," McAllister said. "They got us a few times, punched us in the mouth, and we just came back and tried to give it our best."