TAMPA — They emerged from Raymond James Stadium's southwest tunnel on the 11-month anniversary of their public humiliation at Temple.
That's roughly 335 days to stew, or nearly one day (give or take) for each of the 319 rushing yards they surrendered last October at Lincoln Financial Stadium. In Thursday night's rematch, USF's defensive players had vindication to attain, face to save, fury to burn.
Check. Check. Check.
Surprisingly measured with their public comments in the days leading to the game, the No. 21 Bulls (4-0, 1-0) showed no such restraint Thursday night. Before an ESPN audience and announced Raymond James Stadium crowd of 24,325, USF harassed, hounded — and yes, humiliated — Temple's offense in a 43-7 romp in the teams' American Athletic Conference opener.
"When you play with passion and you play with enthusiasm, then that's the performance you'll get," Coach Charlie Strong said.
The Bulls forced six turnovers, held Temple to minus-4 yards on the ground (the Owls had minus-22 at halftime) and didn't allow the Owls offense to cross midfield until 6:18 remained in the game. The 85 total yards they surrendered were the fewest USF ever has allowed a Division I foe.
And Owls junior tailback Ryquell Armstead, who ran for 210 yards on the Bulls last season, had 3 yards on 11 carries.
That's the same Armstead who publicly questioned the Bulls' will and want-to in the aftermath of the Owls' 46-30 triumph last season.
"For a lot of them, it was kind of a revenge (game) for them," Strong said.
"When you go out there and you kinda see what they said last year ... you kind of take those things personal," said senior middle linebacker Auggie Sanchez (seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, one pass breakup). "As a player, as a coach, I think you have to."
Essentially daring first-year Temple starting quarterback Logan Marchi to beat them, the Bulls blitzed at will, totaling five sacks. Marchi, who hadn't thrown an interception in 106 attempts entering the game, tossed three of the Owls' four picks and finished 3-of-13 for 32 yards.
Bulls senior nickel back Deatrick Nichols had two of USF's four interceptions, pushing the team's nation-best pick total to 12. Safety Devin Abraham snagged his third interception of the season, and weakside linebacker Nico Sawtelle had a fumble recovery and a pick on back-to-back Owls possessions.
"They were playing really fast," Temple coach Geoff Collins said.
"They've got some really good athletes. Once the game got out of hand, they kept blitzing and changing the looks, but I give credit to their defensive staff and Coach Strong. ... You've got to give credit to them."
Temple's only touchdown occurred late in the second quarter, when defensive end Jacob Martin got a hand on Quinton Flowers' cocked-back passing arm, forced a fumble and returned it 44 yards.
All of which makes one wonder how lopsided the outcome could've been had USF delivered a complete game.
On this warm, rain-free night, the offense was as spotty as the defense was stoked.
The Bulls churned out 312 rushing yards, with senior tailbacks D'Ernest Johnson and Darius Tice both eclipsing 100 for the night. It just didn't seem like it.
Nine times in the first three quarters, the Bulls offense began a drive in Temple territory, but totaled only 26 points (2.89 points per possession). The glaring highlight during that time: a 47-yard scoring burst up the middle by Tice, who had his second consecutive 100-yard game.
In what would serve as a microcosm for the evening, Nichols picked off his first pass at the Owls 26, but consecutive false starts and a tailback draw that went nowhere forced USF to settle for a 44-yard Emilio Nadelman field goal.
He returned his second interception — midway through the second quarter — 14 yards to the Owls 6, but the Bulls couldn't punch it in on four tries. Johnson was stuffed well short of the goal line on fourth down from the 2.
In all, USF converted its defense's six takeaways into 19 points. Fortunately for the Bulls, Nadelman -- who hit field goals from 44 (twice), 28, 25 and 37 yards -- was sharp.
Nearly as sharp as his defense.
"We played great," Nichols said. "We played for each other. Everybody put everything on the line for one another, and we just played fast."