Junior quarterback Blake Barnett and freshman wide receiver/kick returner Terrence Horne propelled the South Florida Bulls to a 49-38 victory over ACC foe Georgia Tech in front of an announced crowd of 34,182 at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday. It was the Bulls’ fifth win against a Power 5 school in the past three-plus seasons, and after the game head coach Charlie Strong’s mind was on getting people to notice.
“In order for us to get the recognition that we need to get across the country, we’ve got to get it within our own city,” Strong said. “We’ve got to get it within our own papers, and we’ve got to have people write about us. That doesn’t happen enough... We’re what, 23-4 in the last two years? No one ever writes about it, no one ever talks about it.
“When you talk about moving your program, you’ve got to have it within your own (city). One of these days, I’m going to tell you this, I’m going to turn this city. I’m going to get it (so) this city is all about South Florida.”
The win wasn’t pretty defensively for USF as the Ramblin’ Wreck accounted for 602 yards of total offense, 419 on the ground. But when the Bulls needed it most, Nico Sawtelle came up with a crucial fumble recovery to stop another Yellow Jackets scoring drive, followed by an interception to preserve a late lead.
Horne was the story of the first quarter.
USF's Terrence Horne had TWO return TDs ... in one quarter. pic.twitter.com/THx7tsCPS2— ESPN (@espn) September 8, 2018
After nearly breaking loose on the opening kickoff, Horne returned back-to-back kickoffs for touchdowns for the Bulls. He added another receiving touchdown in the fourth quarter to pull the Bulls within 38-35.
Strong: If (Terrence Horne) can get to the edge, you’re not gonna catch him”— The Daily Stampede (@StampedeSBN) September 8, 2018
Barnett threw an ugly interception into coverage on the Bulls’ first possession that the Yellow Jackets turned into a 35-yard field goal to open the scoring. However, Barnett was huge for USF down the stretch with his arms and legs, contributing to all three touchdowns in the final quarter. He rushed in from 19 yards out to give USF a 42-38 lead (the ninth lead change of the game) then added the insurance score on a five-yard run with 2:03 remaining.
Tech didn’t spy Barnett at all and was soundly burned by that decision. He ran for a team-high 91 yards.
Offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert may have called the best second half in his USF tenure. The Bulls ran 35 plays in the final two quarters and only five of them went for zero or negative yards. He mixed in plenty of variety to keep the Tech defense uncomfortable.
The USF defense was gashed early in the first quarter on the ground for 111 yards, then gave up an 81-yard touchdown throw from senior TaQuon Marshall to Clinton Lynch immediately following Horne’s second kickoff return. Defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary adjusted the defense in the second quarter and surrendered just 50 yards and recorded an interception.
In the third quarter, GT continually ran pitches to the perimeter with much success using backup quarterback Tobias Oliver, who entered the game after Marshall left with an injury. The Jackets scored on their first three possessions of the second half and were driving for a fourth before Sawtelle’s fumble recovery.
“When they went to the tight wing, they were arcing (blocking) on the corner and they were taking the inside guy and cracking (back) on (Khalid) McGee because he was making all the tackles,” Strong said, adding that the Yellow Jackets went play action when USF replaced the corner with another safety and then they ran more when Hoggins came back in.
“We had to make an adjustment. The one thing about this offense is if you can’t stop it, you’re going to keep getting it. We got a dose of it until we said ‘this is what we gotta do, this is what we gotta do.’ We were trying to mix it up, but they have a great scheme and they’re good at what they do.”
The Bulls will travel to Chicago for another #PowerFive test against Illinois next Saturday.
- LB Khalid McGee and senior CB Ronnie Hoggins tied for the team high with nine tackles. Hoggins also had a first half interception.
- Josh Black and Kevin Kegler recorded sacks.
- Bentlee Sanders had three tackles and the key forced fumble in the fourth quarter.
- Senior wide receiver Tyre McCants paced the wideouts with ten catches for 99 yards. Junior WR Darnell Salomon caught the other Barnett touchdown. Redshirt freshman Randall St. Felix followed up his breakout game with three catches for 37 yards on seven targets. He did drop a surefire touchdown on a perfectly thrown ball by Barnett early in the game.
- Five different Bulls receivers caught at least two passes.
- Horne’s 264 kick return yards are a USF record. He also tied the season high for kick return TDs with former Bull Lindsey Lamar, who had two in 2010.
- USF returned two kickoffs for touchdowns for the first time. Horne joins J.R. Reed as the only Bulls to have two return touchdowns of any kind in a game. Reed scored on a kickoff return and a fumble return against Memphis in 2003.
- Redshirt freshman RB Duran Bell saw his first game action and didn’t disappoint. He finished with 69 yards and scored his first career touchdown. He did leave the game early and was seen with his right ankle in a walking boot on the sidelines.
- USF won on ABC for the first time, having lost their first 7 appearances.
- USF has seen the opponent’s backup quarterback in 7 straight home games. The last starter to play an entire game against the Bulls at Raymond James Stadium was Stony Brook’s Joe Carbone.