Well, that was fun.
USF beat another big, bad Power Five team Saturday, defeating Georgia Tech 49-38 at Raymond James Stadium. The Bulls are now 6-1 in their last seven games against teams from the allegedly superior group of conferences, including two bowl games.
Power Five shade aside — looking at the final stats, it’s actually amazing that the game was even close at all, let alone a USF victory. Coach Charlie Strong described the Bulls’ effort with one perfect word — resiliency.
“I just love our resiliency, I love the way we just battle, and this is a special team,” coach Charlie Strong said. “For us to come together and play as well as we played against a really good football team … that’s what was special about this game.”
How could anyone not love the Bulls’ resiliency? And, boy, did they bring a ton of it on Saturday.
Resiliency was Blake Barnett bouncing back from what he called a “mental mistake” on the first drive of the game, which resulted in an interception and ultimately a Georgia Tech field goal, to lead the Bulls in rushing yards with 86.
“I didn’t want to let that set the offense and myself back, so it was something to respond for,” Barnett said.
And, oh yeah, Barnett rushed for touchdowns on the final two USF possessions of the game, to win and ultimately seal the game for the Bulls.
Resiliency was true freshman Terrence Horne Jr. responding to the previously mentioned Georgia Tech field goal with a kickoff return for a touchdown.
Resiliency was Horne responding to the touchdown Georgia Tech scored on its ensuing drive with another kickoff return to the house.
Horne’s effort wasn’t just resiliency, though. It was record-setting.
He set a new USF game record with 264 kickoff return yards, tied an NCAA game record and set new USF and AAC marks with two kickoff returns for touchdowns, thanks to consecutive returns of 98 and 97 yards each.
“It felt good, just going out there and helping my team in any way I can,” Horne said about his two touchdown returns. “Just showing the world what USF has to bring and also the (AAC) teams that we can compete with the big guys.”
Resiliency was going down two scores in the fourth quarter to the same team that you weren’t able to stop in the third quarter and winning by 11 points. The Bulls allowed Georgia Tech to rush for a staggering 217 yards in the third quarter, and none of Georgia Tech’s drives that started in the third quarter ended in anything but Yellow Jacket touchdowns.
Resiliency was finally stopping a Georgia Tech drive before it could get started when it counted most. After Barnett’s first rushing touchdown gave the Bulls a 42-38 lead, linebacker Nico Sawtelle intercepted TaQuon Marshall at the Georgia Tech 40 and brought it back to the Yellow Jacket 18 to set up Barnett’s game sealing touchdown.
Georgia Tech won the yardage battle by 176 yards, gaining 602 yards to USF’s 426. The Yellow Jackets’ offense literally ran right through the USF defense, rushing for 419 yards. Perhaps most alarming of all, 262 of those rushing yards came in the second half, when a defense should be its most locked in.
But none of that matters, because the Bulls were resilient and found a way to win.
This was a special game for the Bulls. All the numbers say they should have lost. All logic, at least as far as the second half went, says they should have been blown out.
But they weren’t blown out. They won.
This was the kind of win that should get USF national recognition, and more importantly, local recognition.
“In order for us to get the recognition that we need to get across the country, we have to get it within our own city,” Strong said. “You look at our football team, and everybody sees what we have. And no one ever writes about it, no one ever talks about it. One of these days, I’m going to turn this city – this city’s going to be all about South Florida.”
Take note, Tampa Bay. After a win like this, Strong is absolutely right. These resilient Bulls deserve your attention.