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.
— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) July 16, 2019
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.
USF used late defense for dramatic win over BYU
In a matter of just two games, the USF Bulls have turned their season’s bleak looking fortunes around, as Saturday they held off a tough BYU team not once, but twice, in the waning moments with defense.
The Cougars had the ball inside the ball inside South Florida’s 20 yard line down by four points two different times in the last 2:30 only to have Charlie Strong’s bunch hang on for a clutch victory. And, that now gives them momentum headed into the second half of the season.
Yes, running back Jordan Cronkrite ran with authority for 158 yards on 26 carries and two second-half touchdowns, as usf rallied from a 23-14 third quarter deficit to take a 27-23 lead with 7 minutes remaining.
But, the Green and Gold would need their defense to stymie BYU and to preserve the lead of less than one touchdown
And, the Cougars look like they were going to get that touchdown, as backup quarterback Baylor Romney drove them to the USF 8 yard line.
But, that’s when the Bulls stuffed running back Aleva Hifo for a 2 yard loss on third down, it brought up a second guessers delight coaching decision.
That’s when BYU boss Kelani Sitake decided not to kick a field goal, despite having all three of his time outs left and it would have put his team within one point.
Instead, they went for the first down and potential winning TD. But, the QB Romney completed a pass to his brother WR Gunner Romney for just 5 yards with USF keeping him two yards short and the Bulls took over possession.
The Cougars defense did their job and they used their three time outs to get the ball back one final time.
Again, Rowney completed a couple of key passes and the Bulls were guilty of a 15 yard pass interference penalty, which set BYU up with first and ten at the USF 12 yard line with less than :30 to go.
But, once again, the Bulls got a big sack on third down from Antonio Grier and then, Romney’s desperation pass to the end zone on the final play of the game was batted down by defensive back Devin Studstill to end it:
.@USFFootball comeback and hold off BYU to WIN!
Bulls 27 pic.twitter.com/9ignlL1rU3
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) October 12, 2019
As the ball fell to the earth, the Bulls rushed the field, celebrating wildly having evened their record at 3-3. They deserved to celebrate.
Just two weeks ago, we wrote that they were humiliated at home by conference opponent SMU and that coach Charlie Strong was clearly in trouble with a 1-in 3 start with 2 blowout losses and having lost 9 of 10 games dating back to 2018.
Credit the Bulls, as they responded with an impressive win against UConn last Saturday. However, that came against the Huskies who are awful. So, most fans of the program and observers wanted to see USF validate things on Saturday.
And, because BYU had already won earlier this season at Tennessee and beaten USC at home, this was a confidence builder. A large one.
Yes, Strong’s team played with heart and out-executed their opponents from Provo, Utah.
And now, the Bulls have a chance to get back above .500 to start the second half of the season, when they play at Navy next week
Bulls QB McCloud likely to start in UConn road game
Bulls redshirt freshman QB Jordan McCloud won the starting spot over veteran Blake Barnett two weeks ago, and will keep his spot under center this week as the Bulls take on conference opponent UConn.
However, the decision to keep McCloud at QB1 was not due to last weeks performance against SMU. If that were the case, it would probably be Barnett, who jump-started the offense with three touchdown passes on three straight drives in the second half of a 48-21. But unfortunately, he suffered a high ankle sprain against the Mustangs that has rendered him unable to practice.
Kerwin Bell says Blake Barnett (high-ankle sprain) hasn't practiced, but Jordan McCloud (wrist contusion) has. He's hopeful of having Barnett available Saturday at UConn, but looks as if McCloud is the guy. @USFFootball
— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) October 2, 2019
Barnett completed 13 of 21 passes for 222 yards, his 10th career 200-yard passing game, and added 24 rushing yards in an valiant relief effort. However, it was too little too late for the Bulls last Saturday night, after getting steamrolled in the first 3 quarters and allowing SMU to score 41 unanswered points.
So it looks like they’ve got to stick with the Tampa Native, who was seriously tested in his second ever career start. McCloud was sacked six times and turned the ball over in the end zone on a 16-play, 77-yard drive, that could’ve tied the game up and turned the momentum in the Bulls favor early in the game.
McCloud was out in the second half after suffering a wrist injury, but has been able to practice at full speed this week.
The Bulls have had a rocky season all around, highlighted by tottering quarterback performances, making it impossible for the offensive staff to know which guy will be the one to spark something on offense.
After two disappointing performances by Barnett to start the season, McCloud made his starting debut for the Bulls in their matchup against South Carolina State. He 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.
But as mentioned above, this past weekend proved otherwise.
Right now, the team is in a poor position, with a dismal 1-3 record, and two injured quarterbacks heading into the heart of conference play.
Sophomore quarterback Kirk Rygol will most likely be the backup if Barnett is a non-option, and McCloud’s wrist starts to give him trouble.
Given all of these setbacks, history is on USF’s side against the Huskies as they hold a commanding 11-5 series record. The Bulls have beaten the UConn seven times in a row, with the last USF loss being back in 2011.
UConn enters into the game with a 1-3 record for the season, matching the Bulls, with two 20+ point losses from Indiana and UCF.
So, if McCloud can return to his third week performance and his wrist can hold up, there’s potential for this to be a nice bounce back week for Charlie Strong’s struggling program.
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