TAMPA — The formation USF's defense used on its fourth-and-inches stop in overtime against Louisville is called "Bear," and that brings a smile to the player lined up front and center, DT Terrell McClain, who is affectionately known to teammates as "Dancing Bear."
"We just started practicing that (last) week," McClain said. "It's primarily to stop the run, on fourth and 1, fourth and inches. The main objective is to drive the offensive linemen back, try to get 2 yards into the backfield and stop any kind of run inside. … If you get a stalemate or 2 yards back, you come away a winner."
It was a big stop for USF, and the formation was called as Louisville decided to go for it on fourth and inches at the 5-yard line in the first overtime. Instead of a traditional four-man front, the Bulls tried a new wrinkle, and it worked.
McClain lined up in the middle, with Julius Forte and Keith McCaskill next to him, and when Louisville QB Justin Burke tried to follow his linemen for the short gain, he had no room. As he tried to extend the ball over the pile, he was met for no gain by LB Mike Lanaris and Jerrell Young and Jon Lejiste, both safeties. That set up K Maikon Bonani's winning field goal.
It's the third straight win in which the Bulls have made a fourth-down stop in the final minutes. For a defense once known better for the players who had left for the NFL, it has been a defining three-game streak of late stops.
"It's a great confidence booster," McClain said. "This defense is so much better than last year. With the new package and so much experience on this team, I think we have a good chance."
This and that: Coach Skip Holtz said the biggest injury concern for Saturday's game against Pittsburgh is redshirt freshman JaQuez Jenkins, a top backup at safety who injured an ankle against Louisville. Coaches are optimistic senior CB Mistral Raymond, a starter who missed the Louisville game with a quad injury, will be able to play.
Times correspondent Kerry Klecic contributed to this report.