RENO, Nev. — Lost in the late-game aerial assault of USF's 11-point comeback victory Saturday were the points the Bulls defense didn't give up to make such a comeback possible.
Sam Barrington forced two Nevada fumbles in the red zone that allowed the Bulls to remain within striking distance in the final three minutes.
The plays were not lost on coach Skip Holt.
"They took points off the board," Holtz said after the 32-31 victory. "When you look at this game statistically … we turned the ball over at our end of the field, which gave them points, and they turned over two in our end that took points off the board. We talk about how important turnovers are all the time, and in this one we finished plus-1 and win a one-point game."
Barrington, a senior linebacker, stripped Nevada running back Stefphon Jefferson midway through the second quarter and safety JaQuez Jenkins recovered at the USF 19, which kept the Wolf Pack from building on its 21-6 lead.
Early in the third with Nevada up 21-20 and on the Bulls 1, Barrington flung himself over the pile and knocked the ball from running back Nick Hale's grasp. Linebacker Mike Jeune recovered. "To be honest, I'm not even sure I caused the fumble," Barrington said.
Replays showed his left knee hit the ball as Hale approached the line of scrimmage.
"We were on the 1-yard line, so I didn't want to give them any space," Barrington said. "I just jumped over the pile. We just did a great job at the bottom of the pile competing for it. We didn't end the down until the whistle blew."
USF caused another Nevada fumble on the opening drive, but the Wolf Pack recovered in the end zone.
"That's the single most important thing that determines if you win or lose," middle linebacker Michael Lanaris said of the turnovers. "It was the least we could do for our offense."
The USF defense gave up 549 total yards, including 228 in the first quarter, but settled in as the game progressed.
"We understand football is a 60-minute game, not a 15-minute game," said Barrington, who was okay after he was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit that broke up a key pass on the third-to-last play of the game. "Any time you go into a game or practice, you're going to encounter adversity. We encountered it, and we overcame it."