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
Clemson offensive coordinator Jeff Scott about to get USF job?
The USF coaching search appears that it might be close to concluding. This with Sunday night reports surfacing that the Bulls will reach a deal with Clemson co-offensive coordinator, Jeff Scott.
The website, The Clemson Insider reported Sunday night that Bulls athletic director Michael Kelly has tabbed the 38 year old Scott as his top target to replace Charlie Strong, who was fired a week ago:
All signs point to Jeff Scott to South Florida https://t.co/1XraC4ZBTZ
— TheClemsonInsider (@ClemsonInsider) December 9, 2019
After struggling on the offensive end, it was thought that the Bulls would pursue a coach with an offensive background. And Scott fits the bill.
The Bulls would be doing that if they land one of the men in charge of one of the most prolific offenses over the past few years in college football. Scott, his QB Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers destroyed Virginia in the ACC title game 62-17 Saturday night.
This appears to be a big hire for the Bulls and a bit unexpected. It is known that Clemson assistants don’t move often. Aside from former offensive coordinator, Chad Morris, all other assistants stay in Death Valley. This includes guys that have been highly targeted in Tony Elliot and Brent Venables.
Scott is Clemson through and through, as he played for the Tigers in the early 2000s for three years and returned to become a coach for the Tigers in 2008. Since then, he has been a receiver’s coach, recruiting coordinator, and now to co-offensive coordinator.
Something USF fans can be excited about is Scott’s successes with wide receivers. He has helped develop some great NFL prospects like DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Mike Williams. He currently has one of the best groups in the country.
After years of the inconsistent offense, it appears that the Bulls leaders felt a change was needed.
Scott would bring knowledge of coaching from Clemson, as well as his stint as a high school coach. His father Brad, was also a coach in college, spending time as an offensive coordinator himself at Florida State, then onto South Carolina, and settling at Clemson.
Add all of this together, and the Bulls may just have “the next big thing” to come into the AAC and make an impact.
A conference that has springboarded coaches into Power 5 positions like Scott Frost two years ago to Nebraska and Memphis’ Mike Norvell to FSU Sunday.
Without getting too far ahead, it appears the Bulls are going to make a strong assistant coach hire, who has the chance to make a great splash quickly.
USF fires head coach Charlie Strong
It’s official… Charlie Strong has coached his final game as the USF head football coach. The news comes just two days after the Bulls humiliating 34-7 loss to rival UCF in the War on I-4 on Friday.
BREAKING: Staff members at USF being informed Charlie Strong is out, per source.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) December 1, 2019
Confirmed: Charlie Strong out at #USF
— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) December 1, 2019
Strong was hired in December of 2016 after being let go from Texas. In his first year in Tampa, he went 10-2 in year one after inheriting a star-studded roster from former head coach Willie Taggart.
Since then, the Strong era has been anything but strong for the past season and a half. Their most recent loss to rival UCF was their fourth straight to end the year and Strong’s team limped to the finish line at 4 – 8.
Strong entered the year with lots of speculation and it only grew worse when they opened the season with a humiliating 49 – 0 loss to Wisconsin. That led to a road loss at lowly Georgia Tech and being wiped out by SMU and Navy previously. Then, they were blown out at home by AAC west division champion, Memphis, 49-10 on senior day. And, that led to UCF ending their season with another rout Friday.
When you combine this season with losing the remaining six games a year ago, that’s 14 losses in the last 18 games played for Strong’s teams. Friday night was also the fifth loss by 27 points or more for USF this season.
After the game, Strong was asked whether he believed he would be back for a fourth year, to which he responded, “I have no idea.”
Since then, the media has been waiting to see if USF Athletic Director Michael Kelly, who was hired last year, would get rid of the former Texas and Louisville coach or give him one final shot to turn it around in 2020? It looks like he’s decided it would be better to start fresh and give fans something to be hopeful for heading into the off season.
Strong is reportedly owed at least $5 million for the remaining two years on his five-year deal that he agreed to in December of 2016.