tampabay.com

Hurricanes' revamped secondary shines

Six get the start, and four first-half interceptions help shut down the Bulls.

By MICHAEL SNYDER
Published October 2, 2005


MIAMI - The Miami secondary had a new look Saturday.

It opened with six defensive backs, giving redshirt freshman Lovon Ponder and freshman Bruce Johnson the first starts of their careers and junior Devin Hester his first start of the season after starting four games at cornerback last season.

The results were impressive. USF, coming off its biggest win of its short history, was bullwhipped in a 27-7 loss at No.9 Miami.

"I'm very, very proud of our defense," Miami coach Larry Coker said. "(The Bulls) were averaging 31 points and 392 yards a game, and they had less than 100 yards before that final drive against mostly backups."

Some of Miami's changes were out of necessity. Starting strong safety Anthony Reddick tore an ACL in the opener against Florida State and is out for the season. And starting cornerback Marcus Maxey was slowed by a sprained left ankle during practice last week and played sparingly.

USF had turned the ball over only five times during its first four games but equaled that during the first half against a Miami squad that played its best defensive game of the season.

Pat Julmiste, from nearby Miramar, badly overthrew his receiver on the Bulls' first possession. All Ponder had to do was catch the ball for his first interception. Then he weaved 42 yards down to the USF 11 to set up Jon Peattie's field goal.

USF's next drive ended in a turnover as well. Julmiste completed a pass to Johnny Peyton. But Kelly Jennings swatted the ball loose, and lineman Thomas Carroll pounced on it for Miami.

Down 17-0 in the first quarter, Julmiste was intercepted by Hester, who returned it to the USF 3. But on the next play, Kyle Wright didn't get the snap cleanly from Anthony Wollschlager and fumbled the ball right back.

Courtney Denson replaced Julmiste in the second quarter and had the Bulls driving. But he underthrew his receiver, and strong safety Brandon Meriweather stepped in front for the interception, his second in as many games.

Ponder added another interception - of Julmiste - on a long desperation pass at the end of the first half.

Their four interceptions marked the most for the Hurricanes since Dec.1, 2001, against Virginia Tech.