Perhaps calling it a miracle would be an overstatement — especially given the opposition — but USF won its first game against FBS opposition in almost a year with a 48-22 victory over UConn on Saturday in East Hartford, Connecticut.
McCloud’s bounce-back game
Redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan McCloud put what was an ugly performance against SMU behind him with a solid performance against UConn. McCloud was 11-of-21 for 157 yards and three touchdowns, also rushing for a score.
Granted, he did throw two ill-advised interceptions, but he also extended plays and avoided sacks.
McCloud’s performance wasn’t anything spectacular, but it got the job done and was more good than bad — and maybe that’s exactly what you want from someone making just their third career start.
The biggest news prior to kickoff was the indefinite suspension of sophomore slot receiver Johnny Ford for a violation of team rules. This is his second suspension of the season, as he missed the season opener against Wisconsin due to suspension as well, per the initial report from The Daily Stampede.
Ford was supposed to be a critical part of new offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell’s scheme. Instead, he’s missed 40 percent of games played, and given the indefinite nature of the suspension, it’s fair to assume that percentage will go up before he comes back — if he does at all.
Questions will be asked. Answers will be avoided. Disappointment will be had for all involved, to be sure.
USF’s offensive line has been bad this season. There’s no kinder way to put it. The 10-sack performance against SMU was just unacceptable.
But it had a pretty good game Saturday. McCloud was only sacked four times while the Bulls’ running game finally had a chance to establish itself, exploding for a season-high 313 yards.
The offensive line also had one of its most disciplined games in recent memory. Except for a holding call early in the third quarter, there were no flags thrown against the line Saturday.
Whether the discipline and blocking can be sustained against teams that aren’t UConn remains to be seen, but Saturday was encouraging to be sure.
Strong’s job is safe — for now
The elephant in the room right now is the job security of coach Charlie Strong.
Despite a mostly new staff and some standout transfers, the results were the same. USF found itself on a nine-game losing streak against FBS opposition and losers of 9-of-10 overall prior to Saturday.
Given the nature of college football, it’s not unreasonable to think a loss to UConn would have been the final straw for Strong. After all, the Huskies have now lost 20 in a row to FBS opponents. Nick Saban’s job wouldn’t be secure if he lost to UConn, honestly.
How much wiggle room the UConn victory gives Strong remains to be seen. After all, it was just a win against the AAC’s proverbial pimple on picture day — which leads to the final takeaway.
Most importantly: Good riddance, UConn
UConn is leaving the AAC after this season to join the Big East — well, in all sports but football, because the Big East doesn’t sponsor it.
From a football perspective, UConn won’t be missed at all.
The Huskies are on a 20-game FBS losing streak, are 19-59 since the AAC’s formation in 2013 and have one bowl appearance since 2010.
They are an embarrassment to a conference that can’t afford embarrassments if it ever wants a team to have a shot at the College Football Playoff.
While it was an automatic win on USF’s schedule every season — Saturday’s win extended the Bulls’ winning streak against UConn to eight — UConn was a huge hit to the Bulls’ — and every member of the AAC East’s — strength of schedule.
They say every dog has its day, so it’s staggering the Huskies never had theirs.