TAMPA — For USF, "scoop and score" is becoming a habit.
For the second consecutive week, the Bulls jumped out to a 7-0 lead by stripping the ball to create fumble, recovering it and scoring. Saturday they did it on the opening kickoff to give USF the lead eight seconds into its 37-7 drubbing of Ball State.
Safety Mark Joyce sprinted into the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown after linebackers Armando Sanchez and Mike Jeune rattled kick returner Phil Dudley with a hard hit and Jeune dislodged the ball.
Joyce matched the record for the fastest touchdown in program history. Safety Nate Allen accomplished scored on a 3-yard fumble return in the opening eight seconds against Louisville in 2007.
Coach Skip Holtz said the key special teams play set the tone early for the Bulls.
"The kickoff team came down and made a big hit, a physical hit, (creates a turnover). Joyce scoops it up and scores, and the game's eight seconds old and you're up 7-0. That's a nice feeling to have that in your hip pocket as a coach," he said.
Joyce said the special teams unit was looking to make a big play on the opening kick.
"We just ran down there as hard as we could. … I wasn't the first one down there, but my teammates made the play, and I saw the ball on the ground and just scooped it up and ran into the end zone," he said.
Joyce said it was a boost to the team's energy to score on another early fumble return.
"It just gets everybody excited. It sets the tone for the whole game, and we just go out there and play real hard," he said.
Jeune said Holtz often emphasizes the importance of playmaking on special teams.
"Coach always talks about it. Special teams has got to set the tone early, and that's all I (saw) in my head, so I just wanted to make a big play," he said.