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Cronkrite, Bulls gearing up for trip to Tulsa

Blake Barnett (left) and Jordan Cronkrite (standing, middle-left) have been cornerstones for USF’s offense this season. They’ll look to improve USF’s conference record Friday against Tulsa. ORACLE PHOTO/SAM NEWLON

No. 23 USF (5-0, 1-0) will travel to Tulsa (1-4, 0-2) this week looking to tally its second conference victory against the Golden Hurricane on Friday evening at Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium.

The Bulls won in thrilling fashion last Saturday at UMass 58-42 in a game that featured seven USF touchdowns. Three of the scores came from running back Jordan Cronkrite, who scored on runs of 77, 76 and 30 yards and set USF and AAC conference records with 302 yards rushing.

Though some fans might be looking for Cronkrite to replicate his performance from last weekend against Tulsa, the 302-yard rusher just wants to get another conference win.

“It’s a short turnaround, I don’t think we’ve had a Friday game all year,” Cronkrite said. “Adjustments have been going well, we have a good game plan for Tulsa.”

Cronkrite has had a weekend of stardom in college football, but he was most excited he got to share his record night with his family.

“I’ve had a lot of people congratulating me, a lot of my family, they’re extremely proud of me,” Cronkrite said Tuesday. “Both my parents went up to the game and I was extremely happy to see them so happy for me. Especially not playing last year and my teammates have been applauding me and stuff like that and it’s been a great feeling.”

Cronkrite has rushed for 606 yards through five games and is ranked sixth in the FBS among qualifying ball carriers with 8.8 yards per attempt.

The Bulls bring a balanced offensive attack to Tulsa. They are ranked 32nd in rushing yards per game(213.4 yards), are 31st through the air (274 yards) and average 37.2 points per game this season.

The Golden Hurricane are on a four-game losing streak, with their lone victory coming in the season opener Sept. 1 against Central Arkansas.

Running backs Cronkrite and Johnny Ford scored five combined touchdowns against UMass and will look to take advantage of a Tulsa defense that gives up an average 207 rushing yards per game. The Golden Hurricane are ranked 110th in FBS against the run, but are formidable as a defensive unit against the pass, ranked 14th nationally.

Bulls’ quarterback Blake Barnett, coming off a 17-24, 209 yard and one touchdown performance, will try to exploit the Tulsa defense the way Houston quarterback D’Eriq King was able to last weekend. King threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more against the Tulsa defense.

“Our whole thing with offense is you’ve got to have a rhythm, you want to move the ball, you want to get the first downs and you want to end up getting big plays with touchdowns,” coach Charlie Strong said in a press conference Monday.

The Golden Hurricane defense allows an average of 31 points per game.

USF will need to limit penalties against Tulsa if it wants to stay undefeated. Last week the Bulls were penalized 11 times for 100 yards.

“You’re always first-and-10 then all of a sudden it’s first-and-20 because you get a holding call or you get a big run and it’s first down then you have to tack on the yards to come back and it ends up being first-and-14 because some type of penalty, “ Strong said.

The Bulls’ defense will look to get on track after giving up 42 points against the Minutemen.

Tulsa benched quarterback Luke Skipper in favor of freshman Seth Boomer last week against Houston. Boomer struggled, completing only 42 percent of his passes while being sacked four times. The Bulls’ defense is ranked 14th in the country with 16 sacks on the year.

In a season that has had dismal results thus far, the bright spot for the Tulsa offense has been running back Corey Taylor III.

Taylor has carried the load for the Golden Hurricane backfield rushing for four touchdowns and 411 yards on the season with 152 coming against Houston.

Tulsa has an experienced offensive line and a running game that averages 207 yards per game.

“The strength of their offense is their offensive line,” Strong said. “You look at the center, the guard and the tackle, all three of those are three-year starters. They’re similar to us, they have running backs that can play.”

Strong believes the game could come down to which team wins the battle in the trenches.

“We know it’s going to be a physical game,” he said. “We are going to have to win it at the line of scrimmage.”