USF journal: Jordan Cronkrite makes another run into the record book

USF running back Jordan Cronkrite (2) drags Connecticut defensive back Oneil Robinson (31) for a large gain during the third quarter. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
USF running back Jordan Cronkrite (2) drags Connecticut defensive back Oneil Robinson (31) for a large gain during the third quarter. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
Published Oct. 21, 2018|Updated Oct. 21, 2018

TAMPA — It was just a 6-yard run in a game that was already all but over; USF was running out the clock in its 38-30 victory against Connecticut on Saturday when the carry pushed RB Jordan Cronkrite over the 100-yard rushing mark.

But for Cronkrite, that accomplishment has become routine. And now, the transfer has yet another spot in the Bulls' record book.

In just his sixth game starting for USF Saturday, Cronkrite rushed for 103 yards, tying Marlon Mack (2015) and Quinton Flowers (2016) with a program-record fifth straight 100-yard rushing game.

On the second play of the night, Cronkrite took the ball 36 yards, and he finished the first half with 79 on the ground. Before Saturday, Cronkrite was averaging more than 8 yards per carry, good for third in the nation behind Memphis' Darrell Henderson and Clemson's Travis Etienne.

Despite his record-tying consistency, Cronkrite wasn't pleased with his performance against the Huskies, specifically citing his fourth-quarter fumble that led to Connecticut's 38-yard field goal.

"I put the ball on the ground. I just don't do that," Cronkrite said. "Yeah, I had 100 yards, but I don't really care about that. I've just got to be better."

The former Florida Gator might be new to the Bulls, but it wasn't his first time making USF history. Two weeks ago in a 58-42 victory against Massachusetts, Cronkrite set USF and American Athletic Conference records when he ran for 302 yards and three touchdowns.

RELATED: No. 21 USF escapes with 38-30 win over UConn

New kids on the block

Against the Huskies, USF had two true freshmen starting on the offensive line, as C Brad Cecil joined LT Donovan Jennings, who has replaced a "banged up" Eric Mayes in the past two games.

Cecil, whose start was announced by his dad on Twitter before the game, replaced Michael Wiggs, who has struggled with some shotgun snaps and pass protection in recent weeks.

On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert raved about Jennings and his potential, despite his youth.

"We're excited about where he is right now knowledge-wise, being able to go out and execute at the level he has done over the last couple of games," Gilbert said. "Still a young guy, just gaining valuable experience with every snap."

The USF offense struggled in the first half, converting just 2-of-6 third downs and coming up with just one score on a 15-yard run from RB Johnny Ford with less than a minute to play before halftime. After the break, the offense began to click, and the Bulls finished with 611 total yards.

USF coach Charlie Strong is pleased about what his young players have contributed so far this season.

"You look at us, we lost so many guys last season and we're sitting at 7-0," he said. "We have a bunch of young talented players playing, and they're playing well. We're playing good enough to win. But we can play much better."

RELATED: USF's messy, at times ugly, but still perfect

Rising in the ranks

WR Tyre McCants has been an integral part of USF's offense for the past three seasons, and Saturday, with 49 yards on six receptions, he rose in the ranks of USF's record book. McCants surpassed Carlton Mitchell (2007-2009) to become third all time in career receiving yards (1,674). He also jumped four former Bulls and is ranked sixth all time in career receptions with 108.

Football funds

On Thursday, the university announced a donation of $2 million given by David Goldstein and Joanne Nelson to help with the construction of the new USF football center, making it the fourth gift of more than $1 million for the planned 160,000 square-foot facility.

USF has received $11.4 million in commitments for the estimated $40 million project, which will feature an indoor practice field with 100 yards of turf, more than 12,000 square feet of space dedicated to strength and conditioning, meeting space, coaches offices and more.

"David and Joanne have long been tremendous supporters of USF student-athletes and their continued success on and off the field," vice president of athletics Michael Kelly said in a news release. "We are grateful for this very generous gift that will not only impact the football program but all of our USF athletics teams."

Goldstein and Nelson are fixtures at USF basketball games, and Nelson, a Tampa real estate executive, is a longtime member of the Bulls Club.

Still streaking

The win against Connecticut makes USF one of just five unbeaten teams in Division I-A football. Before Saturday there were eight teams without a loss, but No. 16 N.C. State fell to No. 3 Clemson, and No. 20 Cincinnati and No. 2 Ohio State were upset by Temple and Purdue, respectively.

The Bulls now join UCF, Notre Dame, Clemson and Alabama in the ranks of the unbeaten, and USF's 7-0 record matches a program-best start for the Bulls.