Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. USF Bulls

USF more than prepared to pounce on miscues

Journal: The Bulls force a single-game record eight turnovers against South Carolina State.
USF rejoices after defensive end Kirk Livingstone, getting hugged, recovers a first-half fumble against South Carolina State. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
USF rejoices after defensive end Kirk Livingstone, getting hugged, recovers a first-half fumble against South Carolina State. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]
Published Sep. 15
Updated Sep. 15

TAMPA — USF’s offense struggled to find a rhythm through its first two games, leading to a continuation of a school-record eight-game losing streak that began last season.

But on Saturday against South Carolina State, the Bulls finally got back in the win column.

The defense helped the Bulls accomplish that, forcing a school-record eight turnovers in the 55-16 victory. USF also set a record for the most fumbles recovered in a single game (five). Six of the Bulls’ seven touchdowns came after South Carolina State turnovers.

“Our defense came out and was very aggressive. That’s why we had a number of turnovers,” coach Charlie Strong said, “and we probably left two or three of them on the field.”

The turnovers were recovered by seven different Bulls. Defensive end Greg Reaves recovered two fumbles, one in the first quarter and another in the second that set up a 20-yard touchdown reception from tight end Mitch Wilcox.

Before Saturday’s game, USF had recorded seven takeaways in a single game three times, two of which came during the 2007 season.

“That was a key thing. It’s much easier to get rolling on offense when you have good field position,” Wilcox said about his team’s extra opportunities on offense. “Shout out to our defense and our kicking game for really doing that.”

Alone at the top

USF tight end Mitch Wilcox celebrates after scoring a touchdown against South Carolina State. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]

Wilcox already owned the USF record for career catches (76) and yards (1,047) by a tight end, but in the second quarter Saturday, the Tarpon Springs native secured another spot in the record books with a 20-yard touchdown reception.

Wilcox’s score was his seventh career touchdown, the most by any USF tight end. Prior to his first touchdown grab against the Bulldogs, Wilcox was tied with Sean Price for most scores by a tight end.

Wilcox, who scored his eighth career touchdown late in the third quarter on a 10-yard pass from McCloud, is predicted to be one of the best senior tight end prospects in the 2020 NFL draft.

“It felt great to get back in the end zone,” Wilcox said. “Both in the student section, so it was really cool to see all the fans go crazy.”

Making strides

Prior to Saturday’s game, USF was only able to muster 119 yards on the ground, making the Bulls one of the worst rushing teams in the nation after Week 2.

USF’s move to start Jordan McCloud under center instead of Blake Barnett appeared to be an effort to bring some kind of spark to a stagnant offense. Almost immediately the move paid off; USF capitalized in a big way on McCloud’s mobility.

The Bulls rushed for 218 yards, nearly twice as many yards as they had against Wisconsin and Georgia Tech combined.

Freshman Kelley Joiner led all rushers with 64 yards on 12 carries, including a 51-yard dash on USF’s final drive of the night. McCloud, who played at Plant High, wasn’t far behind, ending the night with 56 yards on the ground and a pair of rushing touchdowns — one for 9 yards in the second quarter and another for 3 yards in the fourth.

USF came into Saturday’s game ranked fourth from the bottom in rushing yards per game in Division I-A football, ahead of only Akron, West Virginia and Texas State.

Odds and ends

USF’s 39-point margin of victory was its largest since a 44-3 romp at UCF in 2015. ... McCloud is the 17th starting quarterback in USF history, and 10th to win his first career start. ... In his first career start, sophomore middle linebacker Andrew Mims had a career-best six tackles and forced a fumble that was recovered in USF’s end zone. ... Transfer cornerback KJ Sails, rapidly evolving into one of the team’s most valuable players, had a 34-yard punt return (setting up a field goal), fumble recovery (setting up a TD) and three pass breakups.

Audible

“We’ve got a lot of football left, and once we reach our full potential, it’s gonna be real scary.” ― McCloud

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. USF coach Brian Gregory's team (6-4) has won three in a row. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times] [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The men roll past Drexel on coach Brian Gregory’s 53rd birthday
  2. Guard Laquincy Rideau, shooting here against Boston College on Nov. 10, 2019, is second in scoring for USF, averaging at 12.6 points per game. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    USF is going for its fourth straight home victory.
  3. President Donald Trump flips the coin before the start of the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. [JACQUELYN MARTIN  |  AP]
    With President Donald Trump on hand, quarterback Malcolm Perry puts on a record performance for the Midshipmen, rushing for 304 yards and 2 TDs.
  4. Former USF coach Charlie Strong was dismissed Dec. 1 following a 4-8 season. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The former coach’s notice of termination was provided on Friday
  5. New USF football coach Jeff Scott will remain in town through the middle of next week before re-joining Clemson's staff. He'll then remain with the Tigers through their College Football Playoff run. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    With the early signing period starting Wednesday, USF has 14 non-binding pledges.
  6. New USF coach Jeff Scott won South Carolina's Class 3A state title in 2006 as coach at Blythewood High. Pictured with him after the championship game are Bengals standouts Marquon Jones (4), Richard Mounce (12) and Perry Wilson (1). [STEVE MOUNCE  |  Special to the Times]
    At age 25, the Bulls’ new football coach led a South Carolina high school to a state title in its first varsity season.
  7. The first time they met, Jeff Scott was a 14-year-old following his father's footsteps and Michael Kelly was fresh out of college. A quarter-century later, Kelly has entrusted Scott to take the USF football program to a new level. "I knew instinctively this day would come for him, but I never knew it would align for the two of us to be together,'' Kelly said. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    John Romano | South Florida is a program with little history and loads of potential, and Scott is a hotshot young coach looking to make a name for himself.
  8. New FAU coach Willie Taggart faces one of his old teams, USF, on Sept. 26, 2020 in Boca Raton. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times] [JONES, OCTAVIO  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    He moves to his fourth program in the past 36 months. Adding intrigue to the hire, FAU hosts USF in 2020.
  9. (From left) USF Bulls mascot 'Rocky the Bull", new USF football coach Jeff Scott, his wife Sara and their 4-year-old daughter Savannah pose for photos after his announcement at the Sam and Martha Gibbons Alumni Center on Wednesday [OCTAVIO JONES | Times] [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The fifth football coach in USF history seems to hit all the right notes to a standing-room-only crowd
  10. LSU players celebrate after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. LSU won 37-10. [JOHN BAZEMORE  |  AP]
    “Members of Congress care about college sports. They recognize how important it is to American society."
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement