No. 21 USF beat UConn 38-30 Saturday at Raymond James Stadium for its Homecoming game to remain undefeated, despite a close-scoring game against a lowly opponent.
“We got the victory, but we did not play as well as we are capable of playing,” coach Charlie Strong said. “We allowed this team to stay in the game.”
After yet another shaky start, the Bulls (7-0, 3-0) seemed to find their stride against UConn (1-6, 0-4) with 43 seconds remaining in the first half.
Freshman Johnny Ford ran 15 yards for the Bulls first touchdown of the night. At the end of his run, he lifted up USF’s newly-unveiled all-black uniform top to reveal a white shirt with his friend’s name on it.
“My friend, Eric, he passed away in 2013, so that makes five years,” Ford said. “I just dedicated that touchdown to him…I kept that shirt on under and I dedicated that touchdown to him.”
Ford ended his night with 164 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Jordan Cronkrite ran for 103 yards, making it his fifth-straight game rushing more than 100 yards. Even though he’s been a consistent part of USF’s offense, even Cronkrite was unsatisfied with his team’s performance.
“Sorry for my performance tonight, y’all,” he said in a tweet after the game. “Played a horrible game. Won’t happen again.”
The Bulls were able to carry this energy over to the second half, scoring on their first drive of the half. Quarterback Blake Barnett connected with redshirt freshman wide receiver Randall St. Felix for a 75-yard touchdown pass.
“It was a great job on his part, he had two really big catches,” quarterback Blake Barnett said. “For him to open up like that was really exciting,” Barnett said.
Barnett seemed to be in a much better flow after halftime. To start the game, he threw interceptions on back-to-back drives. He only threw for 96 yards the first half, but stepped up and threw 169 in the second half.
In addition, the USF defense made some changes during halftime as the team came out with more aggression. Not only was the defense able to add a sack, redshirt freshman safety Nick Roberts added to the momentum with an interception in the fourth quarter.
“Earlier this year I was playing corner and when I got on the safety, I knew I liked it, I felt more comfortable,” Roberts said. “It feels great knowing we play at home and hearing the crowd cheer for you. I have to hype them up just like they hype me up.”
Although the team came out with the win, they did not feel that they played to their full potential. Players and coaches expressed their concerns over the mistakes their team made — most notably, UConn quarterback David Pindell ran for 197 yards and two touchdowns.
“From a defensive side, we did not control the line of scrimmage, let the QB run and they rushed for 300 yards,” Strong said. “We are a better team than that, we can play better than that.”
Even after winning by only eight points, some Bulls aren’t frustrated and are happy to remain undefeated.
“There is no frustration because at the end of the day we got the win,” Ford said. “We got a lot of stuff in store because we haven’t played our best football game. Imagine when we do play our best, it will be lights out.”