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USF morning after: How long can Bulls keep living on the edge?

In four of its six games, USF has trailed or been tied entering the fourth quarter
USF quarterback Blake Barnett (11) throws in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., Friday, Oct. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) OKSO104
USF quarterback Blake Barnett (11) throws in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., Friday, Oct. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) OKSO104
Published Oct. 13, 2018|Updated Oct. 13, 2018

Conventional logic says the green-and-gold bubble ultimately will burst. USF simply doesn't possess the oxygen reserves to keep relying on last-gasp rallies.

Surely, the law of averages will catch the No. 23 Bulls, who have been average — at best — in the last month.

Or will it? Does this team that clearly has warts also have a destiny?

"You look at this team and we talk about it each and every week with how resilient these guys are and how they battle back," USF coach Charlie Strong said following Friday's 25-24 win at Tulsa, when the Bulls scored 15 points in the game's last seven minutes.

"You never think they are going to lose a game."

Actually, the thought likely crossed the mind of USF's fan base several-dozen times Friday.

For the better part of the night, the Bulls were predictable and pedestrian on offense, managing three first-half points.

Of their 22 first-down plays in the first three quarters, 17 were runs. Ten of those netted 3 or fewer yards, perpetuating a plight Strong has publicly bemoaned.

Meantime, QB Blake Barnett struggled mightily to develop a rhythm, finishing the first half 9-for-21 for 104 yards and an interception. And while the defense rendered Tulsa virtually one-dimensional (79 passing yards), rookie QB Seth Boomer or one of his backs often managed to spring a long run when needed.

Yet the Bulls (6-0, 2-0 American Athletic Conference) found a way. Again.

Behind Barnett, rapidly emerging as one of the grittiest clutch performers in program history, USF was 5-for-5 on third down on its final three drives (two TDs, one game-winning field goal). Two conversions came courtesy of TE Mitch Wilcox (five catches, 95 yards).

Moreover, Tyre McCants' 32-yard catch on USF's next-to-last play will go down in Bulls lore. So will the winning 22-yard field goal by Coby Weiss — who had surgery on his right wrist earlier in the week — with two seconds remaining.

"I was just ready to go out there and kick it," said Weiss, a targeting victim on a PAT last weekend at UMass. "I mentally do a thousand reps every night before I go to bed, and I always kick a game-winner. So I've kicked that kick a thousand times in my head."

But after the surreal comes the sobering: The teams against which the Bulls have staged valiant second-half rallies (Georgia Tech, Illinois, East Carolina, Tulsa) are a collective 9-13 with a combined three Power Five victories.

Subtract next weekend's homecoming game against Connecticut, which shapes up as a glorified scrimmage, and USF's final five opponents are a combined 20-8.

If the Bulls wish to be a team of destiny, they must stop living dangerously.

"I feel like a lot of the games we've waited and got slapped in the face first, and then tried to come back and tried to punch and fight," said TB Jordan Cronkrite, who registered his fourth consecutive 100-yard game (25 carries, 151 yards).

"I feel like we need to go out and just be more aggressive as a team — myself included."


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