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USF quarterback derby lingers with no clear leader

Four players took snaps Saturday at Notre Dame, but none distinguished themselves
USF's Kelley Joiner looks for some room to maneuver against Notre Dame on Saturday.
USF's Kelley Joiner looks for some room to maneuver against Notre Dame on Saturday. [ Courtesy of USF Athletics ]
Published Sep. 19, 2020|Updated Sep. 20, 2020

Eight quarters into the 2020 season, USF’s quarterback picture is getting arguably more convoluted than clear.

None of the four players who took snaps Saturday distinguished himself as the Bulls failed to notch a 100-yard passer for the second game in a row. Third-year sophomore Jordan McCloud logged the most extensive action and had the best day statistically (8-for-14, 64 yards; 21 rushing yards) but never developed any sort of rhythm.

Neither did backup Noah Johnson (4-for-12, 61 yards) or freshman Katravis Marsh (0-for-3). Marsh’s classmate, Jordan Smith, made a late-game cameo.

“We’re still in a position very similar to where we were, to be honest, after the last game, where we have multiple guys competing for it," coach Jeff Scott said. " We’re going to need somebody to kind of step up and take charge.”

Scott has said frequently he’d like someone to establish himself as the clear No. 1 before the Bulls travel to Cincinnati for their Oct. 3 conference opener. Whether that transpires is uncertain.

Equally unclear is when North Carolina transfer Cade Fortin will get his opportunity. Fortin was listed as “unavailable” for the second game in a row.

“I think everything is still on the table,” Scott said.

List of ‘unavailable’ players dwindles

Only seven USF players were on the “unavailable” list prior to kickoff, five fewer than listed before the season opener last weekend against the Citadel.

Center Brad Cecil and left guard Demetris Harris remained on the list, as did Fortin. Left tackle Donovan Jennings, unavailable last weekend, made the trip to South Bend and started.

Related: South Florida to South Bend: Charlie Weis Jr. heading back to Notre Dame

To avoid putting his team at a competitive disadvantage, Scott’s policy is to announce his list of unavailable players minutes prior to kickoff each week.

No specific reasons are given for a player’s absence, though Scott indicated Thursday the Bulls would have at least “one or more” players out for the Notre Dame contest due to COVID-19 testing protocols.

Others on the list were freshman tight end Holden Willis, backup offensive lineman Sebastian Sainterling, kicker Jared Sackett and long snapper Bryce Bernard.

Additionally, starting weakside linebacker Dwayne Boyles (unspecified injury) didn’t play, but Grambling transfer Demontrey Jacobs — a 305-pound offensive lineman — made the trip and logged action upon receiving his immediate-eligibility waiver from the NCAA.

Another attendance streak snapped

Jim Louk — the only radio play-by-play voice in USF football history — called Saturday’s game with partner Sam Barrington remotely from an Amalie Arena studio, ending his in-person attendance streak of Bulls games at 277.

Louk’s remote performance came a week after USF alumnus Suzanne Ward — an Oregon resident — had her 276-game attendance streak snapped when fans weren’t permitted inside Raymond James Stadium for the season opener against the Citadel.

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As a result, longtime team chaplain David “Rev” Lane now is believed to be the only person who has attended all 278 USF football contests.

Odds and ends

For the silver-lining sect of the fan base: USF still hasn’t committed a turnover this year and has totaled only nine penalties its first two games. The Bulls were whistled for nine in the 2019 opener against Wisconsin. ... USF is now 11-29 all-time against ranked Division I-A opponents. It hasn’t topped a ranked foe since a 52-45 victory against Navy at home on Oct. 28, 2016. ... Saturday’s triumph was the Irish’s 20th in a row at home, their second-longest streak since Notre Dame Stadium opened in 1930. They won 28 in a row at home from 1942-50. ... During defensive coordinator Clark Lea’s tenure, Notre Dame has held 27 of 28 opponents to 30 or fewer points.

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