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USF Bulls

USF announces FAMU and Bethune-Cookman as new opponents

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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On Thursday afternoon the USF Bulls announced more out of conference scheduling, and in both cases, it involves to FCS State programs of note. The Bulls will be resuming their series with Florida A&M and have agreed to play Bethune-Cookman for the first times in program history.

USF will play the Rattlers in September of 2021 in the first of a three-game series in which the Bulls will host FAMU again in 2023 and 2027. USF leads the all-time series three victories to none, including a 51-3 pasting in 2015 at Raymond James Stadium. Meanwhile, it will be the first time that USF has ever played Bethune-Cookman in football, and that will come in September of next year. Then, the Bulls and Wildcats will play again, in September of 2026.

The announcement of adding Bethune-Cookman to the 2020 schedule completes the out of conference opponents. USF will open that season against the Texas Longhorns in Austin, which if all things remain equal, means the current coach Charlie Strong will face his previous employer in a “Lone Star State” battle. The Bulls will also host Nevada at home and play at FAU in Boca Raton before beginning American Conference play next season.

As for the 2021 schedule, Florida A&M fits in as one of two Bulls out of conference home games. The other being against the mighty Florida Gators the previous week, Saturday September 11th at Raymond James Stadium. USF will open the 2021 season at ACC opponent, NC State and will also play in late September at BYU in Provo, Utah, before the American Conference games.

Bulls athletic director Michael Kelly released this statement on the additions of FAMU and Bethune-Cookman:

“We are excited to add five home games vs. a pair of in-state programs and to be able to continue to build and highlight the great tradition of college football in the state of Florida, ” Kelly said. “Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman both have deep traditions and passionate fan bases and we look forward to a great atmosphere in Raymond James Stadium for these games.”

And as USF is touting they now have 17 non-conference games against Power Six opponents over the next decade, and that includes: Alabama, Florida and Miami playing them at home as part of “two for one” deals, where the Bulls will play those schools twice at their location.

USF Bulls

Bulls sticking with Jordan McCloud as starting QB

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

After two less than stellar offensive performances by the Bulls to start the season, USF head coach Charlie Strong and OC Kerwin Bell decided to switch things up for week 3. Just two hours before game time, the team learned that Jordan McCloud would be the starting quarterback against South Carolina state.

In fact, the decision was made so last minute that the video board in Raymond James Stadium still showed Blake Barnett as starter.

And it turned out to be a good decision.

The Bulls pulled away with their first win of the season in a 55-16 domination over the Bulldogs.

And it’s looking like they Bulls are going to try to build a win streak by keeping McCloud under center next week.

McCloud’s starting quarterback career started off a bit shaky. In his first snap, he tossed an incomplete pass intended for sophomore slot receiver Johnny Ford for a loss of 3 yards. The Bulls lost 12 yards in its first two drives with three incomplete passes and a sack.

However, he settled down on the next drive and led the offense for a gain of 64 yards, complete with a 42-yard touchdown pass to Ford. McCloud finished the game throwing for 217 yards with three touchdowns, and rushing for 56 yards. Most importantly, he proved to be shiftier behind a spotty O-Line, which allowed him to complete more plays than Blake Barnett has this season.

The redshirt freshman is a Tampa native who as senior in high school completed 160 of 295 passes for 2,426 yards and 26 touchdowns. He originally played at Sickles High School in 2017, but transferred to powerhouse 7A State title contender, Plant High. That’s where he had a 12-2 record, district and regional titles, and a trip to the state semifinals in 2018.

While it’s likely that Barnett would’ve put up similar numbers against South Carolina State, his most recent loss against Georgia Tech last weekend marked an 8 game losing streak for South Florida, and there was something to be said for switching things up and trying out McCloud.

He was able to spark USF, where Barnett clearly has not been able to since last October.

Coach Strong knows he needs to capitalize on this momentum, before this season becomes his last in Tampa.

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USF Bulls

Bulls OC Bell takes responsibility for shut out against Wisconsin

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

In Friday night’s opener against Big Ten perennial contender Wisconsin, the Bulls had suffered their worst loss in program history and left fans wondering what has caused such a downward spiral in the program over the last year and a half? And in a 49-0 loss, its hard to tell which side of the ball is a bigger struggle for the South Florida program?

While both looked alarmingly bad, the lack of offense was the ultimate reasoning behind the shut out, which led coordinator Kerwin Bell to taking full responsibility when speaking to the media on Wednesday.

“I’m the OC so I take all the blame, that’s all on my shoulders,” said Bell. “I’ve been in that position before, I’ve been shut out before, it didn’t feel good and surely last Friday night didn’t also. I was very disappointed in our performance. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Bell offered somewhat of an explanation as to why the team came out looking so ill-prepared and resembling every bit the team that lost their final six games last season. He said it’s the style of offense he’s introducing and that it takes time to get a team fully acclimated to it, which is not a new feat for him.

“This system is a little bit different than what everybody runs in college football, it’s more of a pro style. A lot of thinking, a lot of going through progressions and receivers changing their route on the run,” he added, “It takes a little bit of time and I’ve incorporated this thing 3 or 4 times now in new systems and we’ll be able to handle it. We’ll get up to speed, we just need some success with it.”

Bell also touched on the absence of USFs star slot receiver Johnny Ford. While there’s been no explanation to why he sat out of last weekends game, the Bulls play-caller did say that having him back will free up the rest of the offense in a major way.

“Johnny missing the game was big for us. We had a lot stuff on him to handle some of their man coverages. He’s a great man beater for us. With him being out it really put a lot of extra emphasis on other guys and he really frees up the team because he’s got so much ability running and catching the football.”

Bell, as head coach, led Valdosta State to an unbeaten season this past year and the Division II national championship. His offense at Valdosta led the nation in scoring (52.0 ppg), ranked second in first downs (341) and was fourth in total offense (523.9 ypg), red-zone offense (.901) and pass efficiency (167.37).

He has been around the block, coaching at various levels of college ball plus the CFL and high school. In addition to his many stops along the way as a coach, he also carved out a professional playing career which lasted over a decade.

Although he may have a history of offensive success, he’ll have a short timeline to start seeing success under head coach Charlie Strong or it may be a foregone conclusion before USF ever begins American Conference play, that this will be Strong’s final year and would likely Bells, as well.

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