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USF defense comes through with late stands

Journal: The school also announces $2.5 million in athletic department donations, a good chunk of which will go toward an indoor practice facility.
BYU quarterback Baylor Romney (16) is stopped on fourth down by the USF defense during the second half Saturday at Raymond James Stadium. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
BYU quarterback Baylor Romney (16) is stopped on fourth down by the USF defense during the second half Saturday at Raymond James Stadium. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Oct. 13

TAMPA — With a 3-yard touchdown run from Jordan Cronkrite, USF took its first lead against BYU with less than eight minutes to play. At that point, all the Bulls had to do was play a little defense.

Fortunately for USF, it had been doing just that all afternoon.

The Cougars were forced to settle for four field-goal attempts Saturday, and the Bulls, who came in ranked No. 3 nationally in tackles for loss, recorded 12 more. Twice in the final two minutes, BYU, trailing by four, found themselves in the red zone. Both times, the Bulls defense stopped the Cougars short, securing a 27-23 victory.

USF coach Charlie Strong noted that his defense could have been better in many ways — BYU converted 12 third downs — but in the biggest areas, it got the job done.

Related: RELATED: USF rallies past BYU for Homecoming triumph

“We gave up some plays, but we didn’t give up touchdowns,” Strong said. “And that was critical.”

Late in the fourth quarter, BYU starting quarterback Jaren Hall took a hard hit and was replaced with Baylor Romney, so USF had to adjust.

On their final two fourth-quarter drives, the Cougars got close. But the Bulls defense stood tall.

“We were just trying to go out and get after him. They got a couple routes down the field … but all I kept saying is, ‘We’re not losing this game. We’re not going into this locker room without a W,’ ” defensive end Greg Reaves said. “And the guys bought into that.”

Making history

BYU quarterback Jaren Hall (3) looks to pass to an open receiver during the first half against USF. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

BYU was in search of its first win in the Sunshine State, having gone 0-7 in Florida prior to the matchup with USF. The Cougars are still winless in Florida, but they made history nonetheless.

Hall became the first African-American to start at quarterback for BYU. Hall, who left the game in the fourth with concussion-like symptoms after a hard hit, got the nod after regular starter Zach Wilson was sidelined due to injury. Hall is also the first redshirt freshman to start for the Cougars since 2002.

Hall, whose father also played for BYU in the 1990s, got off to a rough start against the Bulls. He was sacked four times in the first half, two of which came on back-to-back plays in the first quarter. But as the game progressed, so did Hall.

In the third quarter, with USF down by two, Hall rushed 29 yards for a touchdown to widen the gap. He finished with 83 yards rushing, completing 15 of 23 passes for 148 yards and another score.

“He played very well,” Strong said. “I told our team, ‘In the spring, he was their starting quarterback, so don’t walk out into this game thinking he can only run the football, because he can throw it. He was their starter.’ ”

Related: RELATED: Jordan Cronkrite and USF keep churning

Football financing

USF announced $2.5 million in donations to the university’s athletics department, $2 million of which will be put toward the construction of the Football Center. The indoor practice facility, which will also house the program’s operations department, is slated to be built on campus across from the Lee Roy Selmon Athletics Center.

Michael and Darlene Charles made a $1 million donation, while Suzanne Ward, a 1986 alumnus, donated $1.5 million. Ward lives in Oregon,but travels to every home and away Bulls football game.

“We are very excited to announce these latest major gifts toward the USF Football Center as we continue with terrific momentum toward the construction of this transformational facility, not only for the football program but for all our athletic teams,” athletic director Michael Kelly said in a news release.

More than $21 million has been raised for the Football Center, which will cost an estimated $40 million and include a 100-yard turf field, players lounge, and strength and conditioning center.

Reliable returner

USF’s offense struggled at times but thanks in part to Tampa native Bentlee Sanders, field position wasn’t usually a problem.

Sanders, a Tampa Catholic alumnus, had five kickoff returns for 151 yards, including a 61-yard return in the third quarter. He leads the Bulls in kickoff return yards with 321, including a season-long 67-yarder.


  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. (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
  7. 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."
  8. Jeff Scott is introduced as the new USF football coach at the Sam and Martha Gibbons Alumni Center in Tampa on Wednesday, [OCTAVIO JONES | Times] [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Signs and sound bites indicate the Clemson co-offensive coordinator was the Bulls’ top choice all along
  9. Jeff Scott is introduced as the new USF Bulls head football coach at the University of South Florida Sam and Martha Gibbons Alumni Center in Tampa, Florida on Wednesday, December 11, 2019.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    In fact, here’s how he did it as a Clemson walk-on in 2001
  10. In this Jan. 5 file photo, Clemson Tigers co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott speaks with media during media day at the SAP Center prior to the College Football Playoff national championship game  vs. the Alabama Crimson Tide at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. [ADAM LACY  |]
    Scott will be the sixth assistant to keep working for a College Football Playoff team while serving as an incoming head coach elsewhere.