Dana Levine did not have a sack entering his seventh game of the season.
With one minute, 44 seconds remaining in the game and Temple leading by three points, South Florida junior quarterback Blake Barnett dropped back to pass from the 2-yard line to begin a potential game-winning drive.
Levine beat USF senior left tackle Eric Mayes around the edge, sacked Barnett from behind and forced a fumble. Redshirt-junior linebacker Chapelle Russell recovered the ball for a touchdown to seal the Owls’ (7-4, 6-1 American Athletic Conference) 27-17 win against USF (7-4, 3-4 The American) on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
“[Levine’s] motor is just different,” senior safety Delvon Randall said. “He is quicker than the average lineman, and he’s going to get around them when we need a play. …And he came out and actually showed it today.”
The Owls’ goal was to hold USF to less than 21 points, Randall said. After allowing more than 49 points and 500 yards of total offense in each of the last two games, the team viewed Saturday as an opportunity to bounce back.
The Owls allowed 17 points in the first 30 minutes, but they forced five turnovers and three punts and shutout USF in the second half.
Levine, a redshirt-junior defensive lineman, recorded the last of Temple’s two sacks. Temple entered Saturday leading the Football Bowl Subdivision with five defensive touchdowns and added to its total on Levine’s sack-fumble.
Defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker said Levine’s play was a culmination of the Owls’ “pressure-oriented” defensive game plan.
Entering Saturday, USF had allowed 28 sacks, the third most in the conference. Thacker believed he could make Barnett anxious by blitzing more than the Owls usually do, he said.
“We tried to show pressure then drop out into coverage,” Thacker said. “You saw him get anxious and then I think you saw our guys be able to attack on those downs. …Once he gets distressed, losing his eyes down the field and not being able to press the ball downfield, we were able to hold up coverage and really attack and disturb the quarterback.”
The Owls “came out flat” to begin the game, Randall said. At halftime, he told his teammates to “pick it up.”
“I went to our D-line because it starts with them,” Randall said. “I told them, ‘We go off of them’ so we need pressure. And we told them if they get pressure the game will be in our favor.”
Redshirt-sophomore defensive end Quincy Roche led the Owls with nine tackles, two of which were for a loss. Graduate student defensive tackle Michael Dogbe had eight tackles and one tackle for loss.
In the second half against the Bulls, Temple held USF to 81 total yards and 44 yards rushing.
“The main thing [in the first half] is that we weren’t playing our brand of Temple football,” Roche said.
“[USF] came out swinging at us,” Roche added. “We did a great job at recovering and focusing on what we needed to focus on in the second half, and I think it was a big win for us.”