The South Florida Bulls lost for the eighth straight time on Saturday — a program record — falling 14-10 to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets inside Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta. Offensive struggles, penalties, and a critical turnover was the theme of the day for the Bulls.
Heartbreaker in Atlanta. We return home to host South Carolina State in Ray Jay on Sept. 14. #BullStrong pic.twitter.com/pATXAf8Nf7— USF Football (@USFFootball) September 7, 2019
Attempting to cash in on Georgia Tech’s second turnover in as many possessions and take a fourth-quarter lead, senior running back Jordan Cronkrite fumbled at the goal line as he tried to stretch the ball over the pile at the line of scrimmage. After a review, the referees confirmed that Cronkrite fumbled before crossing the goal line. It was a 50/50 call at best. Georgia Tech kept the ball and got out of field position trouble. The Bulls would only have one more possession in the game, which went nowhere.
“I tell our guys that any time you go on the road, you don’t ever leave the game in the hands of the officials,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “A team that’s so close, and you just get so frustrated and disappointed because it’s right there in our hands and it’s just slipping away from us.”
USF got on the board early when Coby Weiss knocked in a 27-yard field goal to give USF the lead 3-0 with 3:40 left in the first quarter. However, Georgia Tech would regain the lead for good after a Jordan Mason 1-yard touchdown rush three drives later. The drive would be kept alive by two KJ Sails penalties, one for pass interference (on third down) and one for a face mask.
Georgia Tech would double their point total a few drives later, again being helped along by costly mistakes by USF’s defense. Missed tackles and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty would set Georgia Tech up at the USF 7-yard line. Tobias Oliver weaved his way into the end zone, giving Tech a 14-3 lead late in the second quarter.
USF would turn to backup quarterback Jordan McCloud late in the third quarter and he proved to be a bit of the antidote needed for a much-maligned offense. After a Bulls interception, he connected with running back/slot receiver Johnny Ford for a 20-yard touchdown to pull the Bulls within four on the first play of the fourth quarter. Then on their next possession, he hit a wide open Mitchell Wilcox on a wheel route that got USF to the GT 1-yard line before Cronkrite’s fumble.
“We just needed a spark, needed to get something going on offense,” said Strong after the game about putting in McCloud.
A large part of the reason USF struggled so mightily on offense was due to another poor performance by the offensive line. Left tackle William Atterbury struggled again in his second career start at the position, and it looks like his issues controlling the speed of the edge rushers will continue to plague the Bulls’ offense all season.
Senior quarterback Blake Barnett was sacked four times before getting replaced for McCloud, and USF managed only 93 yards rushing, 48 of those yards came on one Barnett scramble, which boosted USF’s yards per carry stat to 3.1 yards. Outside of that run, USF mustered a mere 1.5 yards per carry.
On Georgia Tech’s final drive with less than three minutes left, and what appeared to have been a third-down stop, USF linebacker Patrick Macon made what would’ve been a critical stop and would’ve given the Bulls another chance to win the game, but the booth reviewed the play and Macon was flagged for targeting, which resulted in a first down for Georgia Tech and iced the game in the process. Macon will miss the first half versus South Carolina State as a result.
USF will have to address the elephant in the room and decide who will start at quarterback against South Carolina State next Saturday. Charlie Strong said that they will “re-evaluate it after we have a chance to look at it next week.”
- Mitchel Wilcox now owns the record for all-time career receptions by a tight end with 76 and counting.
- Trent Schneider had seven punts for 361 yards. His 51.6 yard average is now the highest mark in a single game in USF history.
- Devin Studstill led USF in tackles with seven solo and one assisted.
- The defense as a unit compiled 13 tackles for loss, including two sacks.