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USF Inexplicably Beats Tulsa 25-24, Remains Unbeaten

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Hello, Tulsa Police? I’d like to report a robbery committed at H.A. Chapman Stadium tonight.

NCAA Football: South Florida at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

TULSA, Okla. — Coby Weiss hit a 22-yard field goal with two seconds left to lift the South Florida Bulls to an unlikely 25-24 win over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane Friday night at H.A. Chapman Stadium.

Weiss’s kick capped a last-ditch 52-yard drive for the Bulls (6-0, 2-0 American East). The march included a 32-yard pass from Blake Barnett to Tyre McCants that put USF in position to win. USF trailed 24-10 in the middle of the fourth quarter, but managed three scores in the final 7:10 of the game.

McCants and (Mitchell) Wilcox, they always find a way to make plays. You want the ball in their hands because they’re unbelievable players,” said USF head coach Charlie Strong.

“We talk about it every week, how resilient these guys are. They continue to battle back and never think they’re going to lose a game.”

For most of the game, the Bulls looked listless and confused. There may have been some travel fatigue with a short week following a long trip back from Massachusetts. Also Tulsa and head coach Philip Montgomery run an almost identical offense to USF, and for the second year in a row offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert (who called plays for Montgomery in 2015 before Strong hired him at Texas) seemed at a loss to move the ball effectively. The Golden Hurricane’s massive 330-pound tackle Tyarise Stevenson helped bottle up USF’s inside run game, while Tulsa constantly dropped eight into pass coverage and took away the middle of the field. This forced USF to try an inordinate number of deep sideline passes, which the physical Tulsa defensive backs defended well.

Tulsa’s offense was inconsistent as well, but that was largely due to Seth Boomer’s erratic arm. The redshirt freshman quarterback completed only 6 of 21 passes for 79 yards and showed very little poise in the pocket. Boomer actually made more plays with his legs than his arm, scrambling for first downs on two third and longs when he caught the USF defense in man coverage.

Trailing 10-3 at halftime, USF quickly tied the game on their first series of the second half when Jordan Cronkrite popped a 3rd and short run for a 66-yard touchdown. Cronkrite finished the game with 151 yards on 25 carries, putting him near a pace to set the Bulls’ single-season rushing record.

In response, Tulsa gave up throwing the ball and started running effectively with a mix of inside running, outside running, and keepers. Shamari Brooks (100 yards on 28 carries) capped off consecutive drives with 10-yard touchdown runs to give the Golden Hurricane (1-5, 0-3 American West) a 24-10 lead.

In the fourth quarter, the game swung in USF’s favor. Tulsa went ultra-conservative, while the Bulls finally started attacking the seams of the Tulsa pass defense. The Golden Hurricane ran nine plays in the final 15 minutes and gained zero yards. The Bulls ran 31 plays for 214 yards.

“We didn’t have the first half that we wanted. I think the second half, specifically the fourth quarter, we showed what we should have been doing the whole game,” said Barnett.

That’s not to say the Bulls made their comeback an easy one. Barnett ran the ball in from a yard out with 7:10 to play, but Weiss’s extra point was blocked to keep the score 24-16. Then after Barnett scored another touchdown at the 2:09 mark, USF had to go for two to try and tie the game. After burning a timeout because they weren’t prepared with a call, Barnett was sacked on a play that never had a chance of working. It made the Bulls’ defense go out and get one more stop before the offense could finally get in position to steal the win with Weiss’s heroics.

USF returns home next Saturday for a homecoming game against the miserable UConn Huskies. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m.

Notes:

  • Weiss joins Maikon Bonani (Kansas, 2008) and Bill Gramatica (Liberty, 1998) on the list of USF kickers who have won a game with a field goal in the final seconds. Bonani and Gramatica made theirs on the last play of the game.
  • Bonani and Santiago Gramatica have also kicked game-winning field goals in overtime. Both were against Louisville, in 2010 (Bonani) and 2003 (Gramatica).
  • This was the first “make it you win, miss it you lose” field goal attempt in USF history. Every other game-winning field goal try came with the score tied.
  • Barnett finished 17 for 39 for 237 yards through the air. He threw one interception right before halftime, and had two rushing touchdowns. He was sacked three times, including one on fourth down where an unblocked blitzer easily took him down.
  • Wilcox led all receivers with 95 yards on five catches. His diving 45-yard grab in the first quarter was the only deep pass USF connected on in the game.
  • USF gained 487 yards, but it took them 86 plays to do it (5.66 ypp). Tulsa gained 299 total yards on 70 plays (4.27 ypp).
  • Khalid McGee and Mekhi Lapointe led the Bulls defense with nine tackles each. Although they didn’t get any takeaways, USF had 11 tackles for loss in the game.
  • Tulsa punter Thomas Bennett had a monster game. He punted nine times for a 50.7 yard average, frequently kicking it away and over the head of USF’s returners. However, his last punt only went 36 yards before going out of bounds, giving the Bulls good field position for their winning drive.