ATLANTA — USF’s (0-2, 0-0 AAC) 14-10 loss against Georgia Tech (1-1, 0-1 ACC) on Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium looked like an actual game, a stark contrast from last week’s blowout to Wisconsin.
Despite the close final score, the diagnosis for the loss was a disorganized offense.
The offensive line looked like a liability
Starting quarterback Blake Barnett was sacked three times for a loss of 21 yards during his time on the field.
Barnett was partly responsible — he managed the pocket poorly. However, the blame is mostly on the Bulls’ offensive line for giving the Yellow Jackets’ space to close in and failing to protect the passer for the first three quarters.
USF’s line tightened up after the entrance of freshman Jordan McCloud at the end of the third quarter, however. McCloud threw for 90 yards, including a 54-yard pass to senior tight end Mitchell Wilcox, who was brought down at the Georgia Tech 1-yard line.
Poor offensive line performances can make or break a game. As of now, the Bulls are in serious jeopardy with the way the line is currently playing.
McCloud should start ahead of Barnett
Dropping a first-choice quarterback after two games may be a tough pill to swallow, but McCloud has been statistically more effective than Barnett, and this game confirmed it.
Barnett completed 60 percent of his 20 passes for 79 yards, while McCloud completed 80 percent, gaining 11 more yards in the process.
It’s hard to see Barnett finishing out the season as No. 1. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see McCloud starting against South Carolina State on Saturday.
Coach Charlie Strong said the team will re-evaluate its options for next week, so we may see a change.
USF fans bring the energy
Despite the demoralized fanbase after last week’s game, Bulls fans brought the energy to Yellow Jacket country. Prior to kickoff, traveling fans were singing USF’s fight song, which drowned out the PA announcer.
Bulls fans were chanting “Let’s go Bulls,” after McCloud tossed a pass to slot receiver Johnny Ford for a 20-yard touchdown.
Perhaps it was because it was the Bulls’ first touchdown of the season or perhaps it was because McCloud was the spark the Bulls needed to power a tight contest.
Regardless of the loss, the USF fans’ energy was felt throughout Bobby Dodd, a distinct difference from the home atmosphere last week.
But given that this is USF’s eighth consecutive loss and second this season, fans’ hopes have most certainly taken a nosedive.
Defense is a silver lining
A promising takeaway that could lead to greater things to come was the defense, which Strong described as one of the best defensive performances in the last two years.
Graduate safety Devin Studstill led with seven solo tackles, and junior cornerback KJ Sails made a crucial interception that debatably kick-started the Bulls’ offense.
Even after a tight loss, Studstill is feeling the energy.
“We’re cooking with gasoline,” Studstill said.