CHARLOTTE, N.C. — USF's offense looked brand new. USF's defense didn't need to.
Aside from a frantic end, during which it allowed 13 points in 1:04, the Bulls defense continued its consistent play, shutting down Clemson's rushing attack, getting two interceptions and knocking starting quarterback Kyle Parker out of the game with broken ribs in a 31-26 victory in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Friday.
"I think this was the right way to go out for the way we pulled together as a team; with the way all the players care about each other," senior safety Mistral Raymond said.
"It couldn't have happened any other way for us."
For 58 minutes, the Bulls held the Tigers to 13 points — 10 of which came after USF turnovers in its territory. Clemson gained just 1.9 yards per carry — 27 attempts for 50 yards.
The Bulls' front seven, led by redshirt freshman linebacker DeDe Lattimore's nine tackles and 21/2 tackles for loss, made sure junior running back Jamie Harper, 6 feet, 235 pounds, didn't get in a rhythm. He finished with 34 yards on 20 carries.
"I thought we played really well on our front seven," USF coach Skip Holtz said. "And I tell you what … Harper is big. That son of a gun ran by me on the sidelines, and I was like, 'Good night.' He's a big, physical, hard-running tailback. Our players weren't going to back down. They weren't intimidated in any way, shape or form."
The Bulls' secondary also came up with big plays. USF entered the game tied for 79th among 120 Division I-A teams in forcing turnovers. But it got interceptions from junior cornerback Quenton Washington and redshirt freshman safety JaQuez Jenkins, a graduate of Lakewood High.
Both were career firsts, and both came close to scoring, Washington reaching the 10 before being tackled and Jenkins stepping out of bounds at the 5.
Lattimore said the effort was a fitting way to build momentum for the offseason.
"Coach told us we ended the season on a good note for next year," he said. "So now we can start next year on a good note."