J.R. Reed continues to be South Florida's big-play man on defense and special teams.
The sophomore safety from Hillsborough High jumpstarted USF's win Saturday against Western Illinois by forcing a first-quarter fumble on punt coverage. Alvin Salter recovered at the Leathernecks 5, and three plays later Quinton Callum scored on a 1-yard run to give USF a 6-0 lead.
His interception in the third quarter was the fifth of the season, tying the team record set by Anthony Henry (2000) and Roy Manns (1997).
Reed also leads the Bulls with three fumble recoveries. His 63-yard fumble return for a touchdown last week gave the Bulls a 7-0 lead on their way to a 45-6 win over Houston.
Reed (5-feet-11, 185 pounds) led USF defensive backs with 75 tackles and nine passes defensed heading into the game, and he is tied for the team lead with two forced fumbles and one blocked kick.
NEITHER NOR: The Bulls continued to struggle on field goals and extra points. Santiago Gramatica missed his sixth and seventh extra points of the season, and he missed a 31-yard field goal in the first quarter wide left. Justin Geisler replaced Gramatica for a 36-yard field goal late in the first half, but he missed wide right.
WORST OF THE BAD: USF quarterback Marquel Blackwell was sacked for a 17-yard loss in the first quarter. It was the most yards lost on a play by the Bulls this season. The worst was an 11-yard loss by backup quarterback Ronnie Banks in the 52-21 loss Oct. 6 at Utah.
BACK TO THE FRONT: Western Illinois took a 7-6 lead late in the first quarter, marking the first time USF had trailed since falling behind 3-0 in the first quarter against Southern Utah on Oct. 20.
THE FIRST SNAP: Callum earned his first start at running back for USF. Clenton Crossley, who started the past three games, has been hobbled by a sprained ankle. Callum made the most of it, scoring all three of USF's first-half touchdowns, two on short runs and the third on an 8-yard shovel pass from Blackwell.
Jimmy Fitts, who usually plays right guard, started at left guard in place of Matt Sparrowhawk. True freshman Levi Newton made his third start of the season at right guard. Sparrowhawk had started the first nine games this season.
HALF THE BATTLE: In its first five home games this season, USF had outscored its opponents 134-33 in the first half. Saturday's 21-17 margin over Western Illinois was the Bulls' smallest halftime lead of the season at home. The previous was 14-7 over North Texas in the home opener Sept. 29.
INJURY REPORT: Two USF players sustained injuries in the first half and did not return. Linebacker Mike Minus sprained an ACL and defensive back Kenny Robinson bruised his ribs. Also, defensive end Chris Daley reaggravated a sprained ankle. Cedric Battles made his first career start in place of Daley.
_ PETE YOUNG, SHARON GINN