Bulls defense records five sacks, forces eight punts in standout effort
TAMPA, FLA.– The USF Football team (1-2) gave No. 10 Alabama (2-1) all it wanted in one-score game in the final minutes before falling, 17-3, in front of a national television audience on ABC and 65,138 fans in Raymond James Stadium.
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The Bulls defense played its strongest game in years recording five sacks, its most since 2019, forcing eight punts and holding the Crimson Tide to 310 yards, their fewest since playing Mississippi State last season. Safety Daquan Evans had a career day with totals of eight tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks to lead an aggressive Bulls effort that also saw linebacker Jhalyn Shuler (11), safety Jaelen Stokes (8) and safety Logan Berryhill (7) post career-best totals in tackles.
Quarterback Byrum Brown nearly posted his third career 100-yard rushing game before finishing with 92 yards on 23 carries to lead USF. Running back Nay’Quan Wright added 62 yards on the ground and a crushing run that flattened an Alabama defender early and set the tone for the Bulls.
USF led 3-0 for most of the first half before Alabama tied it with 2:10 to play in the second quarter.
The Bulls were down a touchdown with 8:47 to play and drove to the Alabama 41 when Brown hit Sean Atkins with a 15-yard pass. But, on the next play, Brown’s deep ball was intercepted in the endzone by Malachi Moore.
Alabama took over on its 20 and marched 80 yards in 11 plays, all runs, to seal the win with a 1-yard run by quarterback Ty Simpson with 33 seconds to play.
With the game tied at three going into the second half, the Bulls took the kickoff, drove to midfield and went for it on fourth down. They came up short, but the defense rose again, stuffing Alabama and forcing a punt when Stokes sacked Simpson on third down.
The USF offense still was unable to sustain a scoring drive against a huge Tide defense and Alabama took the lead, 10-3, with an 84-yard, six play drive highlighted by a 45-yard completion deep over the middle to tight end CJ Dippre.
USF responded on its next possession as a 31-yard Brown run got the Bulls to the Alabama 29. On 4th-and-two at the 21, USF went for it again and came up short on a Brown keeper. The aggressive Bulls, looking for their first top 10 upset since 2007, ended the night 2-of-6 on fourth down attempts.
Again, the defense clamped down, getting a sack from Jason Vaughn on Alabama’s first play and another from Evans, before eventually forcing Alabama to punt from its own 32.
The Bulls moved across midfield with just under seven minutes to play, when Brown was intercepted in the endzone.
The USF defense was stout from the jump, forcing four punts and allowing just three first downs and 53 yards in Alabama’s first four possessions of the game.
The Bulls capitalized on Alabama inadvertently touching an end-over-end Andrew Stokes punt that was pounced on and recovered by D.J. Harris on the Alabama 30. USF moved four yards before John Cannon knocked through a career-long 44-yard field goal to give the Bulls a 3-0 lead with 7:08 to play in the first quarter.
Rain moved in and drenched the field and then lightning sent the teams to the locker rooms with 12:44 to play in the second quarter for a 54-minute delay.
Play resumed at 5:30 p.m. and saw the Bulls drive into Alabama territory before coming up short on a fourth-and-16 attempt at the Alabama 34.
The Tide crossed the 50-yard line for the first time with 4:19 to play in the second quarter, when Byrum Brown was flushed from the pocket and sacked by Dallas Turner causing him to fumble. James Smith recovered for the Tide at the USF 25.
The USF defense remained stout and when Evans sacked Simpson and Alabama was forced to kick a 30-yard field goal to tie the game at 3 with 2:10 remaining in the first half.
The teams went to halftime tied at 3, as neither passed for more than 42 yards in the half and both were held to 133 yards of offense or less, while combining for 4 sacks and nine tackles for loss.
• The USF defense held Alabama to three points and forced five punts while allowing just 113 yards in the first half. It was the first time Alabama had been held to 3 points or less since a 24-22 (trailed 0-7 at the half) four overtime win at Auburn on Nov. 27, 2021.
• For the second straight game, the USF defense recorded four or more sacks. The Bulls five on the night were their most since posting 6 vs. BYU Oct. 12, 2019. USF now has 8 quarterback sacks on the year. The Bulls totaled 14 in 12 games last season.
• The Raymond James Stadium attendance of 65,138 (which included more than 10,000 students)
ranks as the fifth-largest in USF history and the largest since a record crowd of 69,383 watched USF
take on No. 4 Florida State in 2012.
• S Daquan Evans posted career-bests of eight tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks, marking the most sacks for a USF player since Jason Vaughn had three vs. Tulane last year.
• LB Jhalyn Shuler posted a career-best 11 tackles to lead the team, a week after posting a then career-best six vs. FAMU.
• S Jaelen Stokes posted a career-best 8 tackles and a sack, recording a sack for the second straight game.
The Bulls return to Raymond James Stadium for a third-straight home game next Saturday when they take on new American Athletic Conference foe Rice in a 4:00 p.m. kick that will be the conference opener for both teams. That game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.
ABOUT USF FOOTBALL
The USF football program first took the field in 1997 and completed its 26th season in 2022 while completing construction on a new $22 million Indoor Performance Facility. The Bulls have posted 15 winning seasons, earned 16 All-America selections, including 2021 consensus All-American kick returner Brian Battie, and had 32 first-team all-conference selections. USF has had 30 players selected in the NFL Draft and has made 10 bowl game appearances (going 6-4 in those games), posting a program-record six straight appearances from 2005-2010 and most recently making four straight bowl appearances from 2015-18. The Bulls posted back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2016 and 2017, logging a program-record 11-2 mark in 2016 while finishing both seasons ranked in the Top 25. USF spent a program-record 20 straight weeks ranked in the Top 25 during the 2016 and 2017 seasons and reached as high as No. 2 in the national rankings during the 2007 season.
Follow @USFFootball on Twitter for all the latest information concerning the USF Football program.
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