PHILADELPHIA- Despite leading 17-0 at halftime, the South Florida Bulls allowed 27 unanswered points in dropping a fourth consecutive game 27-17 to the Temple Owls on Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.
“Tough loss, really hard loss,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “It’s one of those games where we gave it away. We had our opportunities and didn’t take advantage of it.”
The Bulls (7-4, 3-4 AAC) opened the scoring on their first drive of the game when junior running back Jordan Cronkrite busted through for a 49-yard gain to the one yard line and found the end zone two plays later.
Cronkrite became the fifth USF player in program history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, a feat that has been accomplished nine times in school history.
On the heels of the USF defense forcing five Temple punts, a turnover on downs and recovering a fumble, the Bulls used a Coby Weiss 35-yard field goal and a 12 play, 83-yard scoring drive ending with another Cronkrite rushing touchdown to make it a 17-0 halftime lead.
They never scored again.
“Coaches and teammates might say otherwise, but it’s really hard for me not to put that all on myself,” an emotional Blake Barnett said. “Can’t have turnovers like that, got to play better and take it as lesson.”
The junior quarterback threw two interceptions, fumbled away the game-sealing Temple touchdown and finished 14-of-23 for 82 yards passing.
After the USF lead shrunk to 17-13 with 10:03 to play, the Owls grabbed their first lead of the game when Isaiah Wright took a punt 73-yards to the house.
Temple (7-4, 6-1 AAC) recovered an onside kick immediately after and seemed to have the game in hand, but the USF defense rose to the occasion again forcing a turnover on downs at midfield.
The Bulls went three and out before getting one last crack at it with 1:44 remaining and no timeouts. On first down from the nine-yard line, Barnett was hit and fumbled the ball into a pile of Temple defensive lineman in the end zone to dash any hopes of another miracle comeback.
“You had the ball and three opportunities in the third quarter on the plus side and we got nothing out of it. We’ve got to be able to score points there,” Strong added on his team getting shutout in the second half. “We had two turnovers and then we gave the ball up on downs. You can’t let that happen, especially when you’re on the road.
All together, USF turned it over five times, including three lost fumbles and has now lost four straight games for the first time since dropping six straight at the end of Willie Taggart’s first season at the helm in 2013.
USF returns home for the final time in six days for the annual Black Friday rivalry match up with C. Kickoff time is still TBD.