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USF escapes Tulsa with dramatic 25-24 comeback win

Florida Football Insiders

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Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

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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USF Bulls

Bulls AD Kelly continues indoor facility pitch

Abbey Radeka

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USA Today Sports

The Bulls are once again making their very understandable pitch for an indoor practice facility. South Florida’s Athletic Director Michael Kelly had a lot to say about the programs dire need to a room full of boosters on Thursday.

At the inaugural “Bulls Kickoff Luncheon” at the Marriott Water Street in Tampa, he got on the podium to make the football team’s case.

“As you probably read, we had a lot of rain and storms (Wednesday) that inconvenienced the heck out of our guys and all of our staff,”

He added, “It’s one thing when we do it in the summertime and we don’t have class. We can navigate around that, as inconvenient as it is. But when you get to class time, there’s no way. … We’re not missing class.”

Located in one of the most rain-prone cities in the country, the weather too often limits the available practice time for USF. And in their quest to compete with the most elite collegiate programs, they’re going to need that valuable time in practice.

“Many of you have heard us preaching this for over a year now,” Kelly said. “We’re gonna keep on preaching it ’til we get it built.”

Back in 2017, USF unveiled its plans for a $40 million, 160,000-square-foot football center. The facility will be added to the Morsani Football Practice Complex and include an 83,000-square-foot indoor practice facility with a 110-yard turf field. The center will also feature a two-level, 80,000-square foot building to house the entire football program’s offices.

So far the Bulls have secured about 20 million dollars of funding towards the project. The university is searching for “private and corporate support,” and has announced that no student fees or tuition will be used to finance the facility.

Kelly’s hopeful of breaking ground as early as next spring.

The much-needed “IPF” could be another selling point to show recruits during their on-campus visits. Florida, FSU, Miami and UCF all have indoor practice facilities.

In fact, when former FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher was campaigning to Seminole Boosters to fund Florida State’s IPF, his main sell was that in modern day college football, he couldn’t guarantee that FSU would win a national championship with an IPF, but he could certainly guarantee they wouldn’t win one without it. The facility was completed in early 2013… the same season FSU won the national championship.

For USF, it will also allow other sports programs, such as the baseball, and soccer teams, to train during unfavorable weather conditions. Players will also have a team auditorium with tiered seating where they can review plays from previous games and scout upcoming opponents.

Kelly told reporters after the luncheon that it was a great opportunity to talk to a larger group of supporters, 500 in total (including Tampa’s Mayor Jane Castor), who might not have known the severity of the issue.

“I know our die-hard fans are intimately aware of it, but this was an expanded group. When you have a lot of people that invite seven, eight, nine, 10 people that are guests at a table to kind of hear the vision of USF football and to hear what we have in store for the future…it’s a great opportunity for us.”

With the momentum USF has going into the next couple of seasons, this addition would certainly allow them to capitalize on it.

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USF Bulls

USF QB Blake Barnett excited for new offensive scheme

Abbey Radeka

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After ending last season with an injury, second year USF QB Blake Barnett has some unfinished business to take care of this upcoming season, and he’s going to use his new offense to do it.

At the “American Kickoff” luncheon on Tuesday, Barnett was asked by Tampa Bay Times USF Beat writer Joey Knight, about his thoughts on the Bull’s offensive scheme under the new offensive coordinator, Kerwin Bell. He had a lot of positive things to say.

Barnett emphasized that it was really important that this offense allows him to spread the ball around. He added:

“The offense itself is very diverse. We can run a single play out of six, seven formations, put motions involved…put different personnel and switch it in. There’s really endless opportunities and options… so it’s going to do a really good jobs of not only showing our strengths, but exposing our opponents weaknesses.”

This season is a critical one for the Bulls, and especially for head coach, Charlie Strong. Replacing former OC Sterlin Gilbert with Bell could be the move that will make his third year leading the program a more successful one.

While Strong has had a bad history with hiring OCs, Bell has proven much more promising than the less than elite hires of his past. He is a name older football fans in the state of Florida remember well — and fondly — due to his years as the Florida Gators’ star quarterback. Had Florida not been hit with NCAA and SEC penalties due to various violations under Charley Pell (whose tenure preceded Bell’s playing career) and then Galen Hall, Bell might have led Florida onto the field in one or more Sugar Bowls He was robbed of that opportunity, but the quality of his performances spoke for itself.

Bell, as head coach, led Valdosta State to an unbeaten season this past year and the Division II national championship. He has been around the block, coaching at various levels of college ball plus the CFL and high school. He is 53 years old and a true survivor in the football industry. 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 — not bad for a seventh-round pick at No. 180 in 1988.

Bell and Barnett give Strong and the rest of the USF roster a reason to be hopeful that this will be the bounce-back season in Tampa.

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