BARNETT STEPS UP AT QUARTERBACK
Blake Barnett answered the question of who would take over in place of Quinton Flowers in USF’s 34-14 victory over Elon on Saturday.
Not only did he seemingly solidify his place as a starter, but he was also the highlight of the Bulls’ offense.
Barnett completed 24-of-34 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns. He didn’t settle for just throwing the ball, however.
Barnett also rushed for 31 yards and another touchdown, bringing his total up to four on the night.
“It’s good for his confidence,” coach Charlie Strong said. “It’s good for the whole team because now they see that quarterback…you lose a really good one last year and now you have (Barnett).”
Barnett’s outing was comparable to other top-performing quarterbacks for the weekend. West Virginia’s Will Grier was 24-34 with 429 yards and five touchdowns. Ohio State University’s Dwayne Haskins also threw for five touchdowns, but was 22-30 with 313 yards through the air.
Barnett showed fans and coaches alike that he was the best player for the job. In the last minute of the third quarter, USF elected to bring in junior Brett Kean.
Kean was 3-for-7 passing with 37 yards. After a few misses, the Bulls’ coaching staff brought in Chris Oladokun, who was 2-of-5 with 25 yards.
“He’s not Q (Flowers),” Strong said. “But he can make the throws for us and get us in the right place.”
ST. FELIX HAD A RECORD NIGHT
Freshman Randall St. Felix led USF’s receivers with seven catches for 143 yards and a 40-yard touchdown from Barnett.
His performance was the best freshman debut for a wideout in USF history and, according to coach Charlie Strong, it wasn’t even out of the ordinary.
“He has looked the way he looked tonight since spring practice,” Strong said. “Even last year when we redshirted him, he was making those types of catches.”
One of his catches was on the receiving end of Barnett’s first touchdown — a 40-yard streak route where St. Felix simply outran the Elon defender and caught the pass in stride to put the Bulls on the board.
St. Felix also caught the longest pass of the night — a 52-yard reception at the beginning of the second quarter.
“He’s just a big, strong, physical receiver,” Strong said. “He has big hands and is able to make the play. You look at him and he can stretch you vertical, he can get on top of you, or he can make the five-yard catches and turn it into big yardage.”
St. Felix said he was confident in his abilities and will look to keep making plays next week against Georgia Tech.
“I feel like when the ball is in the air, it’s mine,” St. Felix said. “I’m going to go get it.”
DEFENSE SHINES, NEEDS TO FINISH
Despite losing several players from last year’s defense, USF was able to string together a dominant defensive performance until the last minute of the third quarter.
As a unit, the defense recorded three sacks, 12 tackles for loss and two interceptions, which the offense capitalized on by scoring 14 points-off-turnovers.
Senior Vincent Jackson caught the Bulls’ first interception when he found a deflected pass in the first quarter.
Seniors Khalid McGee and Jaymon Thomas led the defense with 11 tackles apiece. They each recorded five and seven solo tackles, respectively.
Following the two veterans was redshirt freshman Bentlee Sanders, who recorded 10 tackles of his own, including four solo tackles.
“If anything gets behind the linebackers and the D-line, it’s my job to make sure they don’t get behind me,” Sanders said. “I think we did pretty well tonight. We started off good, but then we’ve got to finish.”
USF allowed Elon to score touchdowns on back-to-back possessions at the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth quarter.
Even with his limited experience, Sanders knows that the Bulls won’t be able to let their next opponent — Georgia Tech — score late in the game, as it could be costly.
“I think we let up, we didn’t finish,” Sanders said. “It should have been a goose egg the whole time…I don’t think Elon showed us what Georgia Tech is going to show us.”