Bye week gives Bulls chance to recover and prepare for UMass

Running back Jordan Cronkrite (left) had to shoulder a heavier workload against ECU while teammates Elijah Mack, Trevon Sands and Duran Bell Jr. sat out with injuries. After a bye week, most of the running back should be healthy. ORACLE PHOTO/BAILY EASTERMAN

When USF football takes the field Saturday against UMass in Amherst, Massachusetts, it will do so with a much healthier team than it had at home against ECU on Sept. 22.

Elijah Mack, Trevon Sands and Duran Bell Jr. did not play against ECU, leaving Jordan Cronkrite and true freshman Johnny Ford as the only running backs who received multiple carries.  Tight end Mitchell Wilcox missed the second half of the ECU game due to an ankle injury.

In a way, USF was grateful for the time off between games.

“[The bye week] came at a crucial time,” offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert said. “We had some guys banged up, so being able to get some guys back and get some time off before you go into this eight-game stretch was critical for us.

“We’ve got some guys coming back. Over those two weeks going in[to the bye], we were banged up at [the running back position]. This week’s allowed us to get some guys back and get some guys some reps.”

Gilbert also said he expects Wilcox to play Saturday.

While USF hasn’t disclosed any major injuries on the defense, cornerback Ronnie Hoggins said he and his teammates appreciated the time off.

“It benefited us well,” Hoggins said. “We were actually able to get some of our bodies fresher for this week and get ready for a good opponent.”

Defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary echoed Hoggins’ sentiment.

“You’re always going to be banged up,” Jean-Mary said. “That’s the nature of football. Even if the bye week came after the first game, you’ll always feel like that would get you a little more time to recoup. We had some guys that had some knicks and bruises. Bye weeks always seem like they come right when you need them.”

UMass redshirt senior quarterback Andrew Ford just came back from an injury himself. In his return last week, Ford had his best game of the season, throwing for 355 yards and four touchdowns.

Ford is not the Minutemen’s only quarterback, however. Redshirt senior Ross Comis is also listed as a quarterback on the UMass roster, though he has only attempted 39 passes in 2018.

Comis reminded Jean-Mary of another quarterback who famously wore the same jersey number.

“You can see him running around — he looks like Johnny Manziel with that No. 2 on,” Jean-Mary said. “I say that as a compliment. He gets on the perimeter and throws the ball on the run and does some really good things, so he’s a guy that really sticks out.”

Someone who will not participate in this weekend’s game, though not due to injury, is UMass coach Mark Whipple. Whipple was suspended for a comment in a postgame radio interview that used the word “rape” to describe an official's penalty call in his team’s loss last week to Ohio.

The Bulls and Minutemen kickoff Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast locally on WTTA-Channel 38. WTTA is available over-the-air on channel 38, or on Spectrum channel 6 (HD 1006), Frontier channel 14 (HD 513), Xfinity channel 11 (HD 435) and channel 38 on DirecTV and Dish. WTTA is also available on USF’s residence hall televisions on channel 38.1.