EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — If there was a bright spot in USF's 16-10 loss to Connecticut on Saturday, it was the constant pressure created by the Bulls defense, which matched a school record with seven sacks.
Leading the way was sophomore defensive end Ryne Giddins, who had a career day with a team-best 11 tackles, including two sacks and a forced fumble. All that meant little to the Armwood High graduate.
"It was a great team effort — if my (defensive) tackle didn't do what he was supposed to do, I wouldn't have gotten the sack," Giddins said. "I give the credit to the defense. … We felt real good about it, but it wasn't good enough. At times we needed a big play and we couldn't get home."
On back-to-back plays in the second quarter, Giddins got to Huskies quarterback Johnny McEntee for a 5-yard sack, then hit running back Lyle McCombs for a 6-yard loss and forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive tackle Cory Grissom. In what would be a theme for the game, USF got the ball at the Huskies 35, but they went three-and-out and missed a 46-yard field goal.
Giddins had one sack in the first five games but came through Saturday, coming close to matching his total production of 13 tackles in the Bulls' 4-1 start. Six Bulls had at least a half-sack, including 1½ from linebacker Sam Barrington.
"We had a mind-set coming in of trying to get after the quarterback a little bit, see how he responded to pressure," defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said. "(Giddins) had a great two weeks of practice, and it showed. I'm proud of him. Proud of a lot of those guys for the way they bounced back, handled adversity and responded."
Giddins said as he watched USF move down the field on its final drive — B.J. Daniels had a 32-yard run to the UConn 30 — he was confident his offense would finish with a go-ahead touchdown.
"I still believe in my offense," Giddins said. "I told B.J. I believe in him. If nobody else believes in him, I believe in him. … I see them driving down there and I'm like, 'We're about to score.' … UConn came up with great plays."
Giddins said he felt good in practice the past two weeks, thinking the motivation from a 44-17 loss at Pittsburgh would spark the team. Now it has to prepare for another challenging offense as Cincinnati comes to Tampa on Saturday.
"This is real hard," he said. "Coming off the loss against Pitt, going through practice, I'm like, 'We're going to kill UConn.' We're all coming off this loss, going real hard in practice. It just didn't happen. But it's all good. It just means we have to go harder in practice."