Notebook: Running game comes alive late

TAMPA — An 80-yard fourth quarter touchdown run by Jordan Cronkrite led the Bulls past ECU Saturday night in front of an announced crowd of 34,562 at Raymond James Stadium.

A running game absent most of the evening came alive in the late stages of the contest to propel the Bulls past the Pirates 20-13.

The Bulls’ rushing attack was below the team’s average for the first three quarters with 31 yards on 21 attempts. The Bulls averaged 4.7 yards per rushing attempt through the first three games.

Running backs Duran Bell, Elijah Mack and Trevon Sands were sidelined against ECU. True freshman Johnny Ford took on a bigger role than usual in their absence. He rushed for 13 yards on five carries. Ford also helped set up the first USF score with a 39-yard reception in the first quarter.

Cronkrite finished the game with 129 yards on 15 carries including the go-ahead  touchdown in the fourth quarter.

USF defense contained, limited big plays

The Bulls’ defense was on the field for 96 plays, gave up 412 total yards and 24 first downs. ECU had the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game and had a near 50 percent conversion rate on third and fourth down.

Even with those stats stacked against them, USF only let ECU score one touchdown. The defense held the Pirates to two field goals after the initial touchdown.

The Bulls’ defense was on the field more than they were used to — the 96 plays was the most allowed by a USF defense in program history — but allowed only 4.3 yards per play.

ECU had to march the length of the field for most of its scoring chances. 13 of the 14 ECU drives began in their own territory with 10 drives beginning inside its own 30-yard line.

To round out the Bulls’ defensive efforts, redshirt freshman Nick Roberts intercepted ECU quarterback Reid Herring with two minutes left in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

Bulls become more disciplined

The Bulls recorded 14 penalties in their last game against Illinois. On Saturday, however, USF was penalized only three times for 33 yards.

Based on that statistic, the Bulls played a more disciplined game overall against ECU. On offense, quarterback Blake Barnett was also disciplined — he didn’t turn the ball over once.