MIAMI — Late in the game when it mattered most, USF's defense didn't have to look far for motivation.
It didn't come from the Bulls knowing they were in a tight game against one of the state's so-called "Big Three." It also didn't come from being on the verge of a landmark road win. And they didn't find it staring at those famous "U" emblems on the Miami helmets.
Instead, they found inspiration in each other.
Following a familiar theme this season, USF's defense made big plays at the end of the game, forcing a turnover in the last minute of regulation with Miami driving for a potential winning score and holding the Hurricanes to a field goal in overtime, leading to a 23-20 victory Saturday.
"Our inspiration was each other," said senior linebacker Sabbath Joseph, who got his first start of the season in his hometown of Miami. "We bleed, sweat and (shed) tears with each other. Nobody gave up. We kept fighting and believed. We believed."
Joseph made a crucial tackle in overtime on third and 9 to force a Miami field goal, tackling wide receiver Leonard Hankerson just short of the first down. And junior safety Jerrell Young intercepted Miami quarterback Jacory Harris inside USF's red zone near the end of regulation with the score tied at 17. The Bulls, who entered with only nine takeaways in their past nine games, forced three turnovers.
It was yet another close win this season in which USF's defense had to make plays late. The Bulls did it during a three-game conference winning streak against Cincinnati, Rutgers and Louisville at the end of October and beginning of November.
The Bulls held Miami scoreless in the first half, and USF senior linebacker Jacquian Williams, who finished with a team-high seven tackles, was involved in setting up the Bulls' first 10 points of the game.
Williams helped senior defensive end David Bedford and cornerback Kayvon Webster jar the ball loose from Miami running back Damien Berry on a goal-line stand in the second quarter. He also made a one-handed interception to begin the third quarter. On both of the following drives, the Bulls offense, which struggled in the first half, scored.
Coach Skip Holtz said it spoke to how close the defensive players are to each other.
"I tell you what they do: They believe in each other and have a lot of confidence," he said. "There's an incredible togetherness and bond on this football team, and I don't think they want to let each other down."