That's exactly what redshirt freshman Lovon Ponder did in his first career start as he recorded the first two interceptions of his career to lead the defense and the ‘Canes to a 27-7 win over South Florida at the Orange Bowl Saturday night.
The local graduate of Monsignor Pace High School in North Dade set the tone early when he picked off another South Florida kid, former Miramar quarterback Pat Julmiste on a deep crossing route at the Miami 47-yard line.
He returned it 42 yards to the South Florida 11-yard line setting up a 33-yard field goal by Jon Peattie to give the ‘Canes the early 3-0 lead.
"I found out I'd be starting Thursday so I was able to get my mind prepared to do that," Ponder said. "I thought that pick kind of took their breath away early."
Along with his defensive teammates, Ponder and company held the Bulls to only 69 yards passing and constantly kept pressure on the South Florida offense that torched then ninth-ranked Louisville 45-14 last Saturday.
Ponder's second interception came right before the half ended tying him with Marcus Maxey for the team lead with two.
Having redshirted his freshman year, Ponder stepped in Saturday night for senior Greg Threat who was out with a thigh injury.
"Last week they came up with a big game against Louisville," Ponder said. "We knew they would come out confident. Our defensive line did a great job putting pressure on the quarterback and giving us a chance to make plays in the secondary."
And make plays they did having picked off South Florida quarterbacks four times, Julmiste three times, and former Miami Central quarterback Courtney Denson, once.
Safety Brandon Meriweather and cornerback Devin Hester joined Ponder at the pick party in the first half.
So what did Ponder remember about his early pick that set the tone for the game?
"I just remember it being tipped and catching it on the run," he said. "I just got it and ran. I should have scored, but I guess I got a little winded and ran out of bounds."
But the win is all that mattered, and with the goals of the defense accomplished, a win was the result.
"As a defense, we come in with the mindset to shut teams down," he said. "We want to keep teams to less than ten points, so we did a pretty good job today only giving up seven.
"We wanted to come in and play with a swagger tonight."
And they surely did led by a young buck named Lovon Ponder.
Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat is a Staff Writer with CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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