The USF Bulls took the field for pregame warm ups in the standard home green uniforms and gold helmets, but surprised the crowd at Raymond James Stadium by exiting the tunnel rocking the drippy new Adidas So Flo uniforms for USF’s first ever blackout against UConn as the Bulls eyed back to back 7-0 starts.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, the game did not go a smoothly as the uniforms made them appear. The game was headlined, once again, by offensive struggles and a second half surge with a fourth quarter barn burner.
The USF Offense just is not clicking. Remember when Sterlin Gilbert blamed Quinton Flowers for not being able to "make the reads and throws"…. and now he is calling QB keepers for Barnett. Another punt, another stalled drive loaded with play calling I do not understand…
— 𝗦𝗼𝗙𝗹𝗼𝗕𝘂𝗹𝗹𝘀 (@SoFloBulls) October 21, 2018
Running back Jordan Cronkrite broke off a 36 yard run on the Bulls second offensive play of the game. After a couple of incomplete passes quarterback Blake Barnett tossed an interception with barely four minutes off the clock in the first quarter. The subsequent possession Barnett flicked a deep shot down the sideline intended for tight end Mitchell Wilcox, but UConn linebacker Omar Fortt came down with the Huskies second interception of the first quarter. Mind you, UConn had just one interception on the season coming in to tonight’s contest.
At the end of the first quarter the Bulls trailed the Huskies 7-0, but had the ball on their own 40 yard line with 2nd and short only to once again fall short on third down.
On a positive note, former USF players Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Quinton Flowers, Devin Abraham, and Devon Jones-Stewart were on the sidelines to support their beloved alma mater.
With 4:19 remaining in the first half the Bulls defense had UConn locked at 3rd and 3, Kirk Livingstone came up with the big play and held the Huskies to no gain to force the punt. Jordan Cronkrite broke off back-to-back runs of 15 and 14 yards, then Barnett found Mitchell Wilcox twice as well as Darnell Salomon once for the Bulls first red zone trip. True Freshman dynamo Johnny Ford toted the rock 15 yards on the next play and punched in the touchdown to even the score at seven all.
The Bulls came out red-hot to open the second half, Barnett hit Randall St. Felix for a 75 yard touchdown on the first play of the third quarter to give USF its first lead of the contest. The Bulls defense stepped it up and forced a three and out on the following UConn possession. The tables seemingly had officially turned in the Bulls favor…
The next possession wide receiver Randall St. Felix pulled down a 48 yard dime from Blake Barnett to set USF up at the UConn 24 yard line. Unfortunately, the USF drive stalled and head coach Charlie Strong elected to send out kicker Coby Weiss to attempt a 34 yard field goal on fourth and three… Weiss missed the field goal wide right. Personally, I question the decision to kick the field goal over going for it from the UConn 17 yard line, but maybe that’s just me.
Juwuan Brown came up with one of the best defensive plays of the night to halt UConn’s drive that was moving the chains with ease. After forcing the second consecutive UConn punt, USF RB Johnny Ford dashed for a 78 yard run on first down setting the Bulls up for a shot at a two score lead. Another false start and a declined holding call left USF with no choice but to send the field goal unit out again, fortunately ‘Coby the G‘ split the uprights extending the lead to 17-7 with six minutes left in the third. The ability to finish quality drives has plagued the Bulls all season, and the below marque moment only fueled the inferno in the stands as the crowds displeasure with offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert boiled over.
The whole offense just looked at Gilbert and threw up their hands in frustration before the timeout was called.
Play clock was down to 5.
— CHRIS TORELLO (@TorelloSports) October 21, 2018
The USF defense made it to third and nine but proceeded to give up a Houston 2017 fourth and 24 like play that led to a UConn touchdown. The score sat at 17-14 and the looming question was how will the Bulls respond.
Jernard Phillips returned the kick 69 yards and two plays later Blake Barnett channeled his inner Quinton Flowers and dashed 20 yards on a keeper for the score giving USF a 24-14 lead with two minutes left in the third.
USF defensive back Nick Roberts pulled down a BIG TIME interception and returned it 61 yards to the UConn nine yard line. The next play running back Johnny Ford struck again, this time from 15 yards out to extend USF’s lead to 31-14 early on in the fourth.
That Boy Johnny Ford Really Reminds Me Of Barry Sanders. He is Special 🔥
— D'Ernest Johnson (@DernestJohnson2) October 21, 2018
UConn burned five minutes off the clock after orchestrating an eleven play 75 yard drive for a touchdown, knocking the lead down to 11 points with under nine minutes remaining. The only positive point was the blocked extra point attempt…
To add insult to injury running back Jordan Cronkrite coughed up the rock giving the Huskies their third turnover of the game. UConn took over at the USF 22 looking to strike, but defensive back Mike Hampton made an exceptional play in one-on-one coverage to force the field goal. UConn split the uprights with 7:20 left in the fourth with a score of 31-23 Bulls.
Bruhh you had a good game. Y’all boys got the W. You had 100+. You Came Out Healthy. It’s Always Room For Improvement. But You Definitely didn’t Have A Horrible Game. Watch Film Tomorrow and Correct Your Mistakes. You Good Bruhh
— D'Ernest Johnson (@DernestJohnson2) October 21, 2018
UConn proceeded to score 10 straight points before F5 Johnny Ford iced the Huskies with a 43 yard dash to the house giving USF a 38-23 lead with four minutes left to play. UConn chopped the lead down to 38-30 with 2:24 remaining, but the Bulls never allowed the UConn offense to touch the pigskin again.
Roberts 10 tackles matched his career watermark and fellow redshirt freshman Mekhi LaPointe recorded a personal best 11 tackles. LaPointe was all over the field against the Huskies.
We will be traveling to Houston to cover the game next Saturday at 3:30 PM EST which will be aired on ABC/ESPN2. As always keep it locked right here at SoFloBulls.com and Go Bulls!!
🔢 Final Stats from UConn vs. USF: