The Bulls are leading ECU 13-10 at halftime despite a stat sheet stacked against them.
The Pirates have run more than double the amount of plays, running 52 to USF's 24. They’ve also outgained the Bulls 218 to 165 yards, respectively. To top it off, the Bulls have just over 10 minutes of possession compared to ECU’s near 20 minutes.
Remarkably, the Bulls lead going into the half. Here’s some insight into how they got to this point.
On the ground
The Bulls are without three running backs tonight — Elijah Mack, Trevon Sands and Duran Bell Jr.
Jordan Cronkrite is still healthy, though and is joined by Johnny Ford.
Ford is a true freshman who has only played in the Bulls’ opener against Elon, where he ran for 43 yards.
He’s done well so far tonight — his most notable play was a 39-yard reception that set up the Bulls’ first touchdown.
The Bulls only have 27 yards on the ground through the half though, which won’t be enough to keep them competitive in the second half. Ford and Cronkrite have combined for 2.1 yards per carry — they need to find a rhythm.
Blake Barnett, who has 134 rushing yards for the season, has been caged to negative yards so far tonight. He was able to run a touchdown in to give the Bulls their first score of the night.
Through the air
USF and ECU are nearly neck-and-neck with 138 and 140 passing yards respectively.
The Pirates’ passing strategy seems to be to target senior wide receiver Trevon Brown. He’s caught three passes for 65 yards — one of which was a 47-yarder that was nearly a touchdown.
USF’s Mike Hampton has been covering Brown all game. He’s recorded two total tackles and broken up one pass. Brown has been targeted nine times, but Hampton has covered him well enough to shut him down so far.
For the Bulls, Barnett has a 208.1 QB rating in the first half. He’s 8-11 with a 66-yard touchdown to Darnell Salomon.
USF has an almost even split of playcalls with 13 rushing and 11 passing plays.
ECU was able to block one PAT, but that’s not the only notable statistic on special teams.
USF punter Trent Schneider is back from a hamstring injury and he came to play. He’s averaging 52.8 yards per punt, as one of The Oracle’s writers pointed out.
His 72-yard punt tied the USF record for longest in program history.
Pinning the Pirates into poor field position could be the difference maker in this game. In the first half, it has proved to be the deciding factor in why the Bulls are ahead.
Closing the game
We’ve all seen what USF can do late in a game. Barnett is probably going to step up and carry the team again. Once he gets into a rhythm, the Bulls will be able to spread the ball across the field to other players.
The Bulls will receive the ball to start the second half.