Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. USF Bulls

Senior day swoon: USF trampled by No. 18 Memphis

The injury-besieged Bulls fall out of bowl contention with Saturday’s 49-10 loss.
Memphis Tigers wide receiver Kedarian Jones (13) breaks away from the USF Bulls defense for a touchdown during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
Memphis Tigers wide receiver Kedarian Jones (13) breaks away from the USF Bulls defense for a touchdown during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Nov. 24, 2019
Updated Nov. 24, 2019

TAMPA ― On a clear day bereft of humidity, USF’s 17 seniors encountered a sparse audience as they ran onto the Raymond James Stadium field a final time, and an even smaller one as they exited it in dejection.

Strewn in between were missed field goals, missed blocks, missed tackles and missed opportunities. Such are the snapshots of an anemic program.

USF’s bowl aspirations formally flamed out Saturday as the Bulls quickly relinquished early momentum in a 49-10 loss to No. 18 Memphis (10-1, 6-1 American Athletic Conference) that will go down as one of the worst offensive exhibitions in program history.

USF (4-7, 2-5) will sit out the bowl season for the first time since 2014, Willie Taggart’s second year. Its season ends Friday night at UCF; whether Charlie Strong’s tenure ends Saturday remains the program’s most pressing question.

“We just could never get any rhythm at all going on offense,” Strong said, “and then it just beats down your defense.”

Before a generously announced crowd of 25,136, USF established program records for fewest first downs (five) and passing yards (44) in a game, and finished with more punts (nine) than pass completions (six). By game’s end, Strong and beleaguered first-year coordinator Kerwin Bell had inserted three quarterbacks in a futile attempt to muster momentum.

USF quarterback Kirk Rygol (17) is sacked by Memphis defensive back Rodney Owens (30) late in the fourth quarter. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

The starter, redshirt freshman Jordan McCloud, finished 5-for-14 for 45 yards, re-aggravating an injury to his throwing hand.

“I think he may have bruised his thumb, but it was more of a coach’s decision, just trying to get somebody back there,” said Strong, who watched his line surrender four sacks. "But we weren’t protecting ‘em so it wouldn’t have mattered who lined up back there.”

Therein lie two of Strong’s more plausible alibis for 2019: injuries and youth. Both were on unflattering display Saturday.

Senior tailbacks Jordan Cronkrite and Trevon Sands sat out with shoulder injuries, junior defensive tackles Kelvin Pinkney and Kevin Kegler also were sidelined by injuries, and middle linebacker Patrick Macon (ankle) was limited to a cameo.

Additionally, the image of Blake Barnett limping out for senior day in a protective boot reminded fans of how green USF remains at quarterback.

Memphis quarterback Connor Adair (8) celebrates a touchdown with tight end Kameron Wilson (45) and offensive lineman Michael Denson (72). [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

Nonetheless, the senior day pageantry was followed by a promising start, courtesy of sleek freshman Kelley Joiner Jr. (13 carries, 115 yards), the only healthy scholarship tailback available.

Joiner, who ran for 1,000 yards in only three games as a senior at Groveland’s South Lake High before breaking his leg, broke loose for 13 yards on his first run of the day. He found a seam in the A-gap on his second carry, dashing for 47 yards to set up sophomore walk-on Dave Small’s 1-yard touchdown.

The rest of the half, the Bulls managed 31 yards on 22 plays. Interceptions by KJ Sails and Daquan Evans on consecutive drives gave USF possession at Memphis’ 23 and 42, respectively, but the Bulls converted the picks into three total points.

USF finished with 170 yards, its second-lowest total of the season.

Meantime, Tigers graduate-transfer Brady White (18-for-28, 222 yards) found his normal groove following his sketchy start, directing TD drives on five of his last six possessions before being spelled by sophomore Connor Adair with a 42-10 lead.

His most memorable sequence occurred in the second quarter. Facing second-and-38 after an errant snap, White found receiver Damonte Coxie for a 20-yard gain. He then tossed a short throw across the middle to Kedarian Jones, whose defender slipped, allowing him to dash for a 50-yard TD.

“It was painful," said Bulls linebacker Dwayne Boyles (10 tackles). "But you’ve just got to let that go.”

That bizarre conversion gave Memphis a 21-10 lead. And the pageantry had regressed to a pummeling.

“It definitely hurts for our seniors,” Sails said. “I just feel for those guys, it hurts. But we’ve got a rivalry game coming up, and I’m pretty sure that everyone is going to be jacked up about it.”

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

Joey Knight’s takeaways

Memphis defensive back T.J. Carter (2) breaks up a pass intended for USF wide receiver Randall St. Felix (5) during the first half. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

• Junior punter Trent Schneider is compiling a solid case for first-team all-AAC honors. Schneider, who entered the weekend with the league’s second-best average (45.0), smashed a 65-yarder from the back of his own end zone in the first quarter. Schneider averaged 51.6 yards on nine attempts.

• Memphis’ touchdown just before halftime was a clinic in clock management that USF might be wise to study. The Tigers took over at their own 27 with 1:34 to play and three timeouts, and still had two in their pocket when they scored with five seconds to go.

• A swarming of the field to protest climate change might have been a welcome sight Saturday at Raymond James Stadium, if only to break up USF’s offensive monotony.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. USF sophomore Elisa Pinzan had seven 3-pointers Sunday in the Bulls' 64-57 loss to UCF at the Yuengling Center. [JOEY KNIGHT | Times] [Joey Knight]
    The Knights sweep a weekend of basketball against the Bulls.
  2. USF senior point guard Laquincy Rideau (3) drives in the first half of his team's 55-54 loss Saturday at UCF. [Photo provided by UCF Athletics] [UCF Athletics]
    The Bulls coach doesn’t hold back following his team’s controversial 55-54 loss in Orlando
  3. USF sophomore center Michael Durr faces a daunting challenge on Saturday night in Orlando against UCF 6-foot-11 veteran Collin Smith. [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP]
    The Bulls, who appear on the cusp of a breakthrough win, haven’t defeated the Knights since 2015.
  4. New USF football coach Jeff Scott, left, meets with members of his coaching staff and support staff at USF on Thursday. [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    The new coach also has a date set for the Bulls’ spring intrasquad game
  5. New USF football coach Jeff Scott, right, talks to members of the football team during a team meeting at USF on Thursday. [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    Clemson’s former co-offensive coordinator holds his first full team meeting as USF coach.
  6. USF women's coach Jose Fernandez, talking with guard Enna Pehadzic (0) during the Bulls' season-opening win against Jacksonville, leads his team into a critical American Athletic Conference game tonight at Temple. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    A mediocre showing in non-conference play has hindered the Bulls’ NCAA Tournament hopes.
  7. USF tight end Mitch Wilcox with a reception during a drill on the field during the East practice for the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field on Monday. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The Tarpon Springs alum insists the Bulls’ disastrous 4-8 season benefited him as he prepares for the NFL draft in this week’s East-West Shrine Game activities.
  8. Expect USF third-year sophomore Jordan McCloud, who started 10 games last season, to get serious competition for the job this spring. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    A look at some of the Bulls’ greatest areas of need entering the recruiting cycle’s final stretch.
  9. LSU coach Ed Orgeron, left, and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney shake hands on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, near the national championship trophy after a news conference for the College Football Playoff title game. [CHRIS CARLSON  |  AP]
    Goodbye, task-master ways. The duo leading their teams into the CFP national title game are all about a very personal, aw-shucks, family approach.
  10. USF guard David Collins, left, goes up for a shot against Memphis forward D.J. Jeffries during the second half of the Tigers' 68-64 triumph Sunday at the Yuengling Center. [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP]
    The Bulls squander a 14-point second-half lead in a 68-64 loss to the Tigers at Yuengling Center.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement