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Finally bouncing back — Bulls snap 9-game FBS losing streak in romp of UConn

Bryce Miller (being lifted up) caught two touchdown passes Saturday against UConn. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

Perhaps it was the right game at the right time for coach Charlie Strong and the Bulls.

With Strong’s job security in serious question and USF’s season circling the proverbial drain, the Bulls (2-3, 1-1) needed a break.

They got it Saturday in a 48-22 win over UConn (1-4, 0-2) at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut, thanks to an offensive explosion.

USF’s offense put up 503 yards, the most yardage the Bulls have put up since Oct. 20, 2018 — also against UConn in what was USF’s most recent win against an FBS opponent. Saturday’s win snapped a nine-game losing streak against FBS teams.

The Bulls’ rushing game, which came into Saturday averaging less than 100 yards, put up a season-high 313 yards. Senior Jordan Cronkrite had his best game of the season, rushing for 148 yards — 118 more than his previous high (30 against SMU on Sept. 28), while fellow-senior Trevon Sands rushed for 64 yards and a touchdown.

“Teams that win and teams that are successful, you’ve got to get a running game going,” Strong said in a statement. “You can throw for as many yards as you’d like to, but if you can’t run the football and you can’t score and be physical at the point of attack, you’re not gonna win.”

Freshman quarterback Jordan McCloud, who struggled last week against SMU before being pulled at halftime due to a wrist injury, had a bounceback game. McCloud was 11-of-21 for 157 yards and three touchdowns, also rushing for a 26-yard score in the second quarter.

McCloud’s first touchdown pass came late in the first quarter to walk-on slot receiver Bryce Miller. Miller started in place of the suspended Johnny Ford, who did not travel with the team. In Ford’s place, Miller caught three passes, two for touchdowns, for 36 yards.

Details about Ford’s suspension, first reported by The Daily Stampede’s Nathan Bond, were not known beyond it being indefinite for a violation of team rules.

USF’s offensive line had a bounceback game as well, allowing only four sacks  — a stark contrast to last week’s 10-sack performance.

Other highlights from the Bulls’ highest-scoring game against FBS opposition since Oct. 6, 2018 (a 58-42 win against UMass) included a 22-yard rush by kicker Spencer Shrader on a fake field-goal attempt and a 33-yard touchdown pass from third-string quarterback Kirk Rygol — who dressed in place of injured senior Blake Barnett (ankle) — to junior wide receiver DeVontres Dukes.

Rygol’s touchdown pass was the first of his collegiate career as well as the first touchdown reception of Dukes’, while Shrader’s touchdown rush was the first fake field-goal touchdown in program history, according to USF radio personnel.

USF will attempt to do what it hasn’t been able to do in almost a year next week — put together a winning streak. The Bulls face BYU at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in USF’s homecoming game.

“I keep saying it – we have a good football team,” Strong said. “It’s all about them just playing with confidence, coming together and believing in themselves.”