Tampa Bay Sports Day

USF: Bulls’ Undefeated Run Ends in Houston

HOUSTON – Freshman Johnny Ford registered his second straight 100-yard rushing game as No. 21/20 USF’s undefeated run came to an end with a 57-36 loss at Houston on Saturday.

USF (7-1, 3-1 in AAC) entered the weekend as one of five remaining unbeaten FBS teams and fell for the first time since Nov. 24, 2017.

Ford rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries to help the Bulls run for at least 200 yards for the sixth time this season. Ford found the end zone twice during USF’s 21-point second quarter that started with a 1-yard touchdown run by Jordan Cronkrite.

Seeking his sixth straight 100-yard game, Cronkrite finished with 73 rushing yards and needs 67 more yards to post USF’s ninth 1,000-yard season.

Quarterback Blake Barnett completed 26 of 39 passes for 263 yards. Barnett’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Deangelo Antoine made it a one-score game late in the third quarter, but the Bulls couldn’t put together their fourth double-digit fourth quarter comeback of the season.

Two of the nation’s top offenses took turns making plays during Saturday’s first half that saw Houston (7-1, 4-0 in AAC) take a 28-21 lead and USF rush for 176 yards. The Bulls scored 21 points in the second quarter with two touchdown runs by Ford in the period.

Scoring on its first two possessions, Houston jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first six minutes before USF tied things up with two touchdowns 13 seconds apart in the second quarter.

The Bulls cut their deficit in half with a 15-play, 79-yard touchdown drive that was capped by Cronkrite’s 1-yard run with 10:33 left in the half. Just two plays later, Ford sprinted to the end zone on a 32-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 14-14.

The score was set-up by redshirt freshman safety Mekhi LaPointe’s first-career interception.

USF tied things back up at 21-21 after Antoine’s backside block helped Ford zoom around the Houston defense on a 17-yard touchdown run with 3:50 remaining in the half. Ford was well on his way to his second straight 100-yard rushing game with 85 yards on 10 carries in the first two quarters.

Key plays on defense and special teams helped the Bulls pull within two points of Houston in the first five minutes of the third quarter.

After Trent Schneider’s 62-yard punt to the Houston 1, defensive pressure in the end zone led to a safety on an intentional grounding call. Bentlee Sanders’ 41-yard return on the ensuing punt helped set up a 23-yard field goal by Coby Weiss  with 10:47 to go in the third quarter.

Trailing 43-29, USF got back within a score of Houston on Barnett’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Antoine with 36 seconds left in the third quarter.

USF couldn’t manage to mount its fourth double-digit, fourth quarter comeback of the season despite finishing with at least 30 points for the 32nd time in the past 36 games dating back to 2015.

Greg Reaves led USF defensively with a career-high 12 tackles in his second straight start at middle linebacker. Senior linebacker Khalid McGee (Miami) finished with 10 tackles in his third double-digit effort of the season.