Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. USF Bulls

USF skid reaches eight straight after 14-10 loss to Georgia Tech

Jordan McCloud replaces Blake Barnett late in the third quarter and the Bulls offense shows some life, but not enough to prevail.
USF quarterback Blake Barnett drops back to pass against Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta. [DAVID JOHN GRIFFIN/ICON SPORTSWIRE | AP]
Published Sep. 7
Updated Sep. 7

ATLANTA — Let it be known that in the birthplace of Coca-Cola, USF brandished the program’s first sign of fizz in nearly 11 months.

Not that it made this latest loss go down any easier.

A disheveled mess against Georgia Tech for three quarters, USF’s offense registered its first pulse of 2019 behind backup quarterback Jordan McCloud. But the potential rally, and USF’s first win since last October, was foiled by a late turnover at the Georgia Tech 1.

That fourth-quarter fumble, by senior tailback Jordan Cronkrite, essentially preserved a 14-10 Yellow Jackets win before an announced crowd of 46,599 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

USF (0-2) now has dropped a program-record eight consecutive games.

“I tell our guys that any time you go on the road, you don’t ever leave the game in the hands of the officials,” coach Charlie Strong said of the review upholding an onfield ruling that Cronkrite lost the ball while trying to stretch it over the plane of the goal line. “A team that’s so close, and you just get so frustrated and disappointed because it’s right there in our hands and it’s just slipping away from us.”

More frustration loomed.

USF appeared poised for a final offensive possession when transfer linebacker Patrick Macon stopped quarterback Tobias Oliver for a 2-yard loss on third and 12 with 2:05 to play and the Bulls bereft of timeouts.

But Macon was penalized for targeting after another officials review, essentially ending the game.

“I don’t even think he hit the guy,” Strong said.

The dismal conclusion extinguished the spark provided by McCloud (4-for-5, 90 yards), a redshirt freshman from Plant High inserted on the final series of the third quarter.

At that point, USF trailed 14-3. One play before McCloud entered, transfer cornerback KJ Sails intercepted a pass — tipped by Macon — deep in Tech territory.

Three plays later, on the fourth quarter’s opening play, McCloud — who had replaced senior Blake Barnett — found Johnny Ford over the middle for a 20-yard scoring strike on third and 5.

“It’s great the way he stepped up,” senior safety Devin Studstill said.

“We’re all proud to see a new guy step up. Any new face, any new person bringing a team along, anyone that brings a team along forward, we’re down for ’em.”

USF forced another turnover on the ensuing Tech possession, with safety Nick Roberts forcing a fumble by tight end Dylan Deveney that rush end Darius Slade recovered.

The next play, McCloud connected on a fade route to tight end Mitch Wilcox, who rambled to the Georgia Tech 1 for a 54-yard gain.

“We knew that we got man coverage, and before the snap I knew that I was gonna get it,” McCloud said. “I just had to wait on the corner and see what he did. He went inside and it was open.”

Four plays later, Cronkrite’s effort fumble occurred.

“We thought he was in,” Strong said, “but the officials reviewed it and said he wasn’t over.”

Preceding the fourth-quarter drama was three quarters of offensive drek.

When not rolling out for his life, Barnett (12-for-20, 79 yards) again appeared disoriented, his throws lacking crispness. For the second game in a row, his protection and running game never materialized; USF managed 93 rushing yards, with Barnett scrambling for 43 of those.

Meantime, the refurbished Bulls defense did its part, holding Tech to 255 total yards despite consistently being put in unfavorable situations.

For a time, its most potent enemy was itself. Georgia Tech’s first touchdown drive, starting on the USF 43, was buoyed by consecutive USF personal-foul penalties.

“We’re cooking with gasoline here,” said Studstill, a Notre Dame transfer who led USF with seven solo tackles. “It’s coming together, it’s coming along, I promise you.”

As for the offense, changes are almost certain to be forthcoming in light of Saturday’s late proceedings. While Strong didn’t say McCloud would start next week against Division I-AA South Carolina State, he said his staff would “re-evaluate” the position.”

“It sucks the way it ended,” McCloud said. “But we’ve got 10 more opportunities to just prove who we are.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) celebrates with teammates after he caught a pass for a touchdown against UCF during the second half. KEITH SRAKOCIC  |  AP
    The Panthers end the Knights’ 25-game regular-season win streak on the “Pitt Special.”
  2. Tulane wide receiver Jalen McCleskey runs in front of Houston cornerback Damarion Williams (6) on the way to the go-ahead touchdown during the final minute of Thursday's 38-31 Tulane win. GERALD HERBERT  |  AP
    But the Green Wave’s win ranks as one of the league’s top five endings ever.
  3. USF guard David Collins (0) looks to pass against East Carolina during the second half at the Yuengling Center in Tampa, Florida on Sunday, February 10, 2019. JONES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The Bulls’ 2019-20 American Athletic Conference slate was released Friday
  4. USF senior Evelyne Viens (14) already is the program's career goals leader. TRAVIS PENDERGRASS  |  USF Athletics
    The Canada native already owns the program record for goals scored with 56.
  5. USF guard Enna Pehadzic (0), USF center Shae Leverett (21) and Houston guard Julia Blackshell-Fair (33) battle for A loose ball at the Yuengling Center last season. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The Bulls also have an afternoon home game the same day as the Gasparilla parade.
  6. The Bucs will get their first look at rookie Daniel Jones Sunday when he starts for the New York Giants in a 4:25 p.m. game against Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium. FRANK VICTORES  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Exploring quarterback changes for the New York Giants, Florida Gators and USF Bulls.
  7. USF quarterback Jordan McCloud (12) runs against Georgia Tech during the second half of a Sept. 7 game. JON BARASH  |  AP
    Additionally, quarterback Jordan McCloud makes the AAC weekly honor roll.
  8. USF redshirt freshman Jordan McCloud warms up before Saturday night's game against South Carolina State. McCloud totaled five touchdowns in the Bulls' 55-16 triumph. SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times] SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    The redshirt freshman’s five total touchdowns were the most by a Bulls first-time starter
  9. USF rejoices after defensive end Kirk Livingstone, getting hugged, recovers a first-half fumble against South Carolina State. SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    Journal: The Bulls force a single-game record eight turnovers against South Carolina State.
  10. Relentless pressure caused this first-half fumble; No. 20 Bentlee Sanders knocking it free with No. 4 Greg Reaves ready to pounce. USF recovered, then scored a touchdown just a few plays later against visiting South Carolina State. SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    At least one unit still has some serious shortcomings entering conference play.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement