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USF escapes Tulsa with dramatic 25-24 comeback win

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It wasn’t pretty, and it was against another bad team, but USF pulled off a dramatic 14 point comeback Friday night in Tulsa for a thrilling 25-24 win. The Bulls had been living dangerously in their previous three games against bad opponents pulling out wins over Illinois, East Carolina and UMass in the second half of them all. Friday night it looked like they were done.

The Golden Hurricane, just 1 – 4 on the season, put together four complete quarters of solid football and two long second-half scoring drives to set the stage for the possible huge upset of the Bulls.

However, even though the Bulls struggled for much of the night to get any sustained offense or drive rolling, they eventually would get on track.

Trailing 10-3 at the half, the Bulls got on the board when their top weapon all season, running back Jordan Cronkrite ripped off a 66 yard touchdown run to even the game up at 10. That put Conkrite over a hundred yards (151) rushing for the fourth consecutive game.

However, there was no quit in Tulsa. They put together their key third quarter scoring drives and running back Shamari Brooks capped off both with 10 yard touchdown runs each time. The second Drive was an 88 yarder and it put the Golden Hurricane up 24 – 10.

Tulsa was playing with confidence that it had not shown for much of the year with four losses in five games and that included 16 turnovers, as well.

But, the Bulls finally got their offense sustained midway through the fourth quarter, when quarterback Blake Barnett led a 14 play, 82 yard drive that he capped off with a 1-yard scramble run for the touchdown. Tulsa blocked the extra point to maintain a 24 – 16 advantage.

USF was able to force a punt and then quickly marched 80 yards in 10 plays and Barnett again scrambled in from 12 yards out to cut the lead to two at 24 – 22. With only 2:09 remaining the Bulls decided to try to tie the game with a two-point conversion.

Tulsa’s defense rose to the occasion and stuffed a scrambling Barnett on the two-point play.

Still, USF just kept making plays and got three stoops of Tulsa, used two timeouts remaining and got the ball back.

That’s when the real dramatics took over.

First, USF was aided a roughing the passer personal foul with under :40 to play that gave them a first down in Tulsa territory. Then Barnett fired a bullet downfield to receiver Tyre McCants for 32 yards down to the Hurricane five yard line with :08 left.

Barnett did most of his statistical damage in the fourth quarter finishing with 237 yards passing and 24 more rushing with the two TDs.

The Bulls got to the line and calmly spiked the ball with :05 left.

Kicker Coby Weiss booted the 22 yard field goal for the win at 25-24.

The “Houdini” escape for the Bulls puts them at 6-0 for the second consecutive year and only the third time since the program became FBS in 2001.

Tulsa was bidding to beat a Top 25 team for the first time in eight years. Alas, they came up a point short and are now 0 for 15 against ranked teams since 2010.

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New Bulls coach Scott eagerly embracing new challenge

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Fresh off a runner-up finish in Monday night’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game loss to LSU, former Clemson co-offensive coordinator, and new USF head coach, Jeff Scott is now going full throttle in his first few days back in Tampa with his new program.

Scott posted on social media Friday morning that one of his top priorities is to reconnect with all of the jigh school coaches in and around the Tampa area:

This is not unfamiliar for the first-time head coach, as this was part of his role was procuring players for Dabo Swinney’s Tigers out of West Central Florida.

Scott also gave access to the Tampa Bay Times and beat writer Joey Knight on his inaugural meeting with his new team Thursday at the USF facility.

And, Scott began by prioritizing his team in the meeting room having the seniors sit in the front with the juniors behind and then, the underclassmen behind them.

It will be a challenge over the next season or two for Scott to revitalize a program that essentially went “off the cliff in the middle of the 2018 season.” That’s when the Bulls under Charlie Strong lost their remaining six games, including their bowl game and then, were blown out twice early in the 2019 season to drop to 1-3.

USF regained their footing in the middle of the year wining against lesser American Athletic Conference competition in a couple of games, but promptly lost out, including their final 4 games to finish 4-8. That resulted in Strong’s firing.

The 39 year old Scott had Clemson through and through, as he played for the Tigers in the early 2000s for three years and returned to become an assistant coach for the Tigers in 2008. Since then, he has been a receiver’s coach, recruiting coordinator, and then, co-offensive coordinator for the last three years.

The Tigers, behind All-American QB Trevor Lawrence,  rolled through a second straight unbeaten season and then, a 62-17 blowout win over Virginia in the ACC Title Game. In a bid to repeat as National Champs, the Tigers defeated Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on December 28th in one of the College Football playoff semi-finals.

Alas, the “fairy tale” did end well, as LSU behind Heisman winning QB Joe Burrow, defeated them 42-25 Monday night in New Orleans.

There’s some more that USF fans can be excited about and Scott’s successes with wide receivers. He has helped develop some great NFL prospects like DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Mike Williams. His  current Clemson group likely has at least two more NFL wideouts, too.

After years of the inconsistent offense, it appears that the Bulls leaders felt a change in philosphy was needed.

And Scott, the son of former FSU and Clemson offensive coordinator Brad Scott, appears to be the guy to change it all.

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Coordinator musical chairs all related to Willie Taggart

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Now that head coaching hires have been made at the prominent jobs in the state and around college football, the musical chairs of assistants and specifically coordinators is also fascinating. And in the case of FSU, USF and FAU they are all interrelated to former USF and FSU-now FAU, boss, Willie Taggart.

In Boca Raton, the new FAU coach has announced his first coordinator hire and it’s none other than his former defensive consultant at Florida State, his former defensive coordinator at Oregon and the former USF head coach, Jim Leavitt:

Taggart had brought Leavitt on board, as the season began to unfold in Tallahassee, initially, to consult, but eventually as a defensive coach on the field.

The tandem came together in Eugene, Oregon three years ago, when Taggart left USF and was hired by the Ducks. He then brought Leavitt with him from being the defensive coordinator at Colorado.

However, Leavitt did not follow Taggart to Florida State in 2018, as had been reported that he would. He stayed behind for one more season, in Eugene.

Meanwhile, Taggart had a disastrous 5-7 first season with FSU after having hired former Michigan State defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett to run his defense. Meanwhile, Leavitt was fired after the 2018 season by Oregon coach Mario Cristobal and then, was available to come join Taggart this year.

However it was to no avail , as Taggart was fired himself, on November 3rd after just nine games into his second season.

Continuing, Taggart had hired Kendal Briles to run his offense in 2019 from Houston, but Briles had previously been at, wait for it… Florida Atlantic as the OC. And now, there’s word of where Briles is headed, and, that’s to the University of Arkansas, as their new offensive coordinator.

The Hogs made a surprising coaching hire of former Georgia offensive line coach, Stan Pittman, who has never been a head coach at the college level before. Desperate to improve in the SEC West, Briles up tempo offense did help the Florida State in terms of increases of  yardage per game and points per game output this past season.

Meanwhile, back at USF, new coach Jeff Scott had already announced on Sunday that former FAU defensive coordinator and head coach for their bowl game, Glenn Spencer, is his new defensive coordinator in Tampa.

Spencer has extensive experience, especially as a defensive assistant and coordinator for over a decade at Oklahoma State.

Staying with the “musical chairs” connected to his current and former jobs:

On Monday evening Scott also announced that Charlie Weis Jr., the son of the former Notre Dame coach and Patriots offensive coordinator, would be joining his staff with the Bulls.

Weis had most recently been the offensive coordinator for…..you guessed it again, the last two years at Florida Atlantic taking over for Briles with Lane Kiffin. But, Kiffin did not take Weis with him, when he left FAU for Ole Miss two weeks ago. And, Taggart did not retain Weis.

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At 27 years of age Weis is still the youngest coordinator in FBS football.

So, to recap: Taggart and Leavitt are back together for the third time in four seasons in the third different location.

Spencer and Weis, who were the coordinators at Florida Atlantic for Kiffin, weren’t kept by Taggart, but are now are now both at USF, where Taggart and Leavitt used to be head coaches.

And Briles, who coached for Taggart and for part of the year with Leavitt in Tallahassee is now on his way to the SEC with the Hogs.

It’s never dull with a coaching carousel.

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