The win improved the ‘Canes to 3-1 on the young season, but the question remains about the offense that continues to struggle, even against opponents it comes in expecting to put up big numbers against.
The Bulls who came in off a huge 45-14 demolition of then ninth-ranked Louisville, clearly got the attention of the Miami defense though as the ‘Canes defense dominated the game early and often forcing five turnovers in the first half against the Bulls who looked shell shocked in the game's opening minutes.
Two interceptions by redshirt freshman safety Lovon Ponder, who picked off a Pat Julmiste deep crossing route on the Bulls' opening possession, keyed the early barrage.
Ponder, who also had an interception at the end of the first half, returned the interception to the South Florida 11-yard line only to see the offense get pushed backwards to the 15 before Jon Peattie drilled a 33-yard field goal from the left hash giving the ‘Canes a 3-0 lead.
"I felt like that pick kind of took their breath away," Ponder said. "We knew they would come in confident. I should have scored, but I guess I got a little winded so I ran out of bounds."
The defense created another turnover shortly thereafter when Kelly Jennings stripped USF's Johnny Peyton. Defensive end Thomas Carroll recovered a fumble at the USF 39-yard line.
The ‘Canes turned that into a touchdown when Tyrone Moss scored from one yard out to make the score 10-0, but it took Miami five plays inside the five to punch it into the end zone.
After a punt by South Florida, the ‘Canes offense was again given prime field position after Devin Hester's 28-yard punt return gave Miami the ball at the USF 19-yard line.
Moss added another score when he took the handoff on the next play 19 yards for the touchdown and a 17-0 lead.
But story of the game was the defense that forced five turnovers in the first half and limited the Bulls who came in averaging almost 400 yards and 31 points a game to 174 yards, including only 69 passing yards, and 7 points, with the points coming against the ‘Canes second unit late in the fourth quarter.
"Wins are good, but we obviously have to get a lot better," UM coach Larry Coker said. "I think offensively we had opportunities in the first half. We didn't take advantage of them. We did a great job creating turnovers, but didn't capitalize on some of those. That's something we've got to do as we go farther down the road.
"It's called execution. We have to pass and catch. You have to be consistent in the way you play and that's the big thing that I see so we have to get better at it."
The ‘Canes pushed the lead to 20-0 in the second when Peattie hit a 48-yard field goal capping an eight-play, 31-yard drive, but also turned the ball over twice inside the Bulls' ten-yard line, once on a botched snap late in the first quarter at the Bulls seven-yard line, and the second time after tight end Greg Olsen caught a 57-yard pass from Kyle Wright, but didn't secure the ball and had it punched out from behind at the one-yard line by Mike Jenkins.
Olsen was unable to corral the ball in the end zone, it squirted out of the back of the end zone and South Florida took possession on the touchback.
The offensive struggles continued in the second half as the ‘Canes were unable to mount any type of substantial drive gaining only ten yards on their first four possessions, including two possessions that saw them go three and out with –5 yards each.
Miami was able to score and push the lead to 27-0 with 8:25 on a one-yard run by Moss, his third touchdown of the game, but once again, it took UM four plays to gain two yards.
"It's very frustrating," UM offensive tackle Eric Winston said. "Our defense deserves better. They created turnovers and we didn't finish. You hate to be sour about a win, but we have got to start playing better on offense."
The ‘Canes return to the Orange Bowl next Saturday in a 3:30 game against Duke.
Canes Defeat USF, 27-7
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