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Jordan Cronkrite and USF keep churning

Martin Fennelly: The senior running back has his second straight big game to help lift the Bulls.
USF running back Jordan Cronkrite (2) dives over BYU defensive back Tavita Gagnier (34) for the first down during the second half of the game at Raymond James Stadium. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
USF running back Jordan Cronkrite (2) dives over BYU defensive back Tavita Gagnier (34) for the first down during the second half of the game at Raymond James Stadium. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Oct. 13, 2019
Updated Oct. 13, 2019

TAMPA — Sometimes winning comes down to something as simple as refusing to stop.

Sometimes you just have to bull your way past seemingly certain defeat.

That’s exactly what was running through USF senior Jordan Cronkrite’s mind when he was handed the ball in the third quarter, 1 yard from the end zone. He appeared to be stopped, to have no chance, just like his team.

But Cronkrite’s head, heart and legs did not receive the memo. His legs kept churning and churning.

“Honestly, just trust your technique and fundamentals,” Cronkrite said. “Once you do that, it’s your God-given abilities and you go from there.”

Throw in a helpful push in the back from USF offensive lineman Donovan Jennings.

“Hats off to him,” Cronkrite said.

Whatever it took. Cronkrite scored. He bulled his way in from a yard out. The most important yard of the 158 he gained Saturday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium. He was back. And so was USF. The Bulls pulled to within 16-14 and pulled some more after that.

“We just kept battling,” USF coach Charlie Strong said.

This was a very nice 27-23 win over favored BYU. Never mind that it came down to the BYU punter muffing a snap, or an injury to Jaren Hall, the first African-American to ever start at quarterback at BYU, leaving it in the hands of another redshirt freshman at the end. Never mind that USF still had to hold on for dear life. The Bulls are owners of a two-game win streak and are 3-3 heading to Navy next week,

They refused to lose Saturday. They would not be stopped.

And the same goes for Cronkrite.

In a game his team needed, it needed him more. He responded with those 158 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns, including the winner in the fourth quarter, which he helped set up with an explosive 41-yard run, Cronkrite’s longest of the game. It also easily surpassed his rushing totals across his first four games: 6, 16, 21, 30.

Maybe it’s not how you start …

“We knew he would be there,” Strong said.

Last week’s 148 yards in the win at hapless UConn were no accident. Cronkrite has put up back-to-back big days, and it helped turn this one around.

USF trailed 13-0 in the second quarter. The Bulls were down 16-7 at halftime. They were behind 23-14 after three quarters, but found a way. From 3-3, you can almost see six wins and bowl eligibility, of all things. A big win, no way around it.

“The difference is we just really kept our heads in it,” Cronkrite said.

He was a star on the rise last season, a transfer from Florida who was one of the biggest reasons USF broke off to a 7-0 start. He finished with 1,121 yards and nine touchdowns.

It wasn’t nearly as easy this time around. The well ran dry to start the season. For a lot of reasons. Hey, you run the ball when you’re down 7,000 to Wisconsin in the opener. It wasn’t just that.

“It was a team effort,” Cronkrite said. “I could have done better, the offensive line could have done better, the coaches could have done better.”

But beginning with the UConn game, Strong and beleaguered USF offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell went back to the run game and stuck with it. And it has produced, with 243 yards Saturday, Trevon Sands going for 63. It all helped mightily as USF quarterback Jordan McCloud played through a shoulder injury. And it will matter if USF is to rally the rest of the way.

You have to start somewhere.

Saturday, it started with 1 yard, 3 feet, not to mention the two belonging to Jordan Cronkrite. They never stopped moving. They refused to stop, and to lose, as it turned out.

Contact Martin Fennelly at or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly


  1. USF coach Brian Gregory's club dropped its third consecutive game Thursday, falling 65-55 at Wichita State.
  2. Florida Gators running back Lamical Perine (22) smashes into LSU Tigers safety John Battle (26) in the second quarter. (Bronte Wittpenn, Times)
  3. BRONTE WITTPENN   |   Times
Florida Gators wide receiver Trevon Grimes (8) catches the ball near the end zone in the third quarter in a game against LSU at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at the University of Florida in Gainesville on Saturday, October 6, 2018.
  4. USF defensive back Mike Hampton (7), returning an interception during the 2018 season opener, will help lead the Bulls through what could be the American Athletic Conference's toughest schedule in 2020.
  5. USF wide receiver Randall St. Felix (84) and the Bulls have only one open date in the 2020 season. USF's complete 2020 schedule was finalized Tuesday.
  6. Former USF coach Charlie Strong (left), greeting Alabama coach Nick Saban at a 2017 summer football camp on the Bulls campus, reportedly has joined Saban's staff in an analyst role.
  7. Connecticut's Megan Walker, left, drives past USF's Shae Leverett during the second half of the Huskies' 67-47 triumph Sunday at the Yuengling Center. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
  8. Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma brings his team to the Yuengling Center for the final time as an American Athletic Conference member today.
  9. USF coach Brian Gregory, pacing the sideline during a January game at the Yuengling Center, watched his team score only 11 first-half points in Saturday's 56-48 loss to Tulsa. [OCTAVIO JONES | TAMPA BAY TIMES]
  10. USF interim coach Jess Moore watches her team from the dugout on the opening day of the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational at Eddie C. Moore Complex in Clearwater.
  11. Florida quarterback Kyle Trask (11) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the second half of the Orange Bowl against Virginia on Dec. 30 in Miami Gardens.
  12. Bishop McLaughlin alumnus Carson Ragsdale, a clutch reliever for USF two seasons ago, returns after missing a season due to Tommy John surgery.