Tampa Bay Sports Day

USF: Bulls Rack Up 503 Yards, Roll to 48-22 Victory at UConn

EAST HARTFORD, CONN. – Jordan Cronkrite racked up 148 of USF’s season-high 313 rushing yards as the Bulls rolled to a 48-22 conference victory at UConn on Saturday.

USF (2-3, 1-1 in AAC) generated a season-high total of 503 yards of offense and led from start to finish in its eighth straight victory over the Huskies (1-4, 0-2), dating back to 2012. Saturday marked USF’s first 300-yard rushing game since gaining 346 yards on the ground against the Huskies on Oct. 20, 2018.

“I keep saying it – we have a good football team. It’s all about them just playing with confidence, coming together and believing in themselves. I told them that we (had) some guys down, but the thing about it is other guys can step up,” said USF head coach Charlie Strong.

Redshirt freshman QB Jordan McCloud accounted for four touchdowns in his third straight start. The Tampa native completed 11 of 12 passes for 157 yards and three touchdowns on top of rushing for 62 yards and another score from 26 yards out.

Making his first-ever USF start in the slot, Bryce Miller (St. Petersburg, Fla.) caught a pair of 12-yard touchdown passes from McCloud. Miller’s first TD reception started a string of four straight scoring drives that helped the Bulls build a 27-14 halftime lead.

Cronkrite registered his first 100-yard rushing game of the season while averaging 7.4 yards per carry. Senior Trevon Sands added seven carries for a career-high 64 yards in a performance that included his first-ever touchdown run as a Bull from 5 yards out in the second quarter.

“What we wanted to do is establish the run and we were able to go run the football today. Teams that win and teams that are successful, you’ve gotta get a running game going. 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,” added Strong.

USF’s defense posted five sacks and allowed just eight points and 94 yards in the second half of another impressive performance as the Huskies were held to 293 yards.

Sophomore linebacker Dwayne Boyles totaled three of the Bulls’ 10 total tackles for loss after USF headed into Saturday tied for third nationally with 9.8 per game. USF also was tied for second in the FBS in turnovers gained and increased its season takeaway total to 14 with a fumble recovery by senior Kirk Livingstone.

McCloud accounted for three touchdowns (two passing) while USF scored on four straight drives and built a 27-14 lead by the break. McCloud and Cronkrite combined for 105 of USF’s 146 rushing yards in a first half that saw the Bulls generate 282 total yards.

Miller’s second touchdown catch in as many weeks helped spot USF a 7-0 lead when he hauled in McCloud’s 12-yard pass with 3:22 remaining in the first quarter. USF’s 10-play scoring drive covered 88 yards and included 76 yards on the ground. Sands had a career long 23-yard rush down to the UConn 15 after Cronkrite broke off runs of 17 and 15 yards.

Sands’ first career touchdown run from 5 yards out capped off USF’s next drive, a seven-play sequence that went for 85 yards. Freshman Xavier Weaver set a new career best with a 31-yard reception, followed by junior tight end Jacob Mathis’ career long 37-yard catch down to the UConn 5.

After UConn cut its deficit in half, Bentlee Sanders dashed down the sideline on a career long 67-yard kickoff return down to the Huskies’ 31. Four plays later, Randall St. Felix snagged a 13-yard touchdown reception, his first of the season on a back-shoulder throw by McCloud with 4:39 remaining in the half.

Less than a minute after UConn’s second touchdown, USF snuck in one more score before halftime when McCloud scrambled 26 yards to the end zone with 1:47 to play. McCloud had 51 rushing yards and completed 7 of 11 passes for 136 yards in the first half.

McCloud’s second touchdown pass to Miller, a 12-yard strike, helped give the Bulls a 34-14 lead with 5:01 remaining in the third quarter. USF passed the 200-yard rushing mark on its third 80-plus yard drive of the game that featured a 19-yard run by McCloud on fourth-and-5 from the UConn 31.

Special teams got into the scoring act in the fourth quarter with a trick play. Instead of a field goal attempt, freshman kicker Spencer Shrader caught a perfect over-the-back ball flip from holder Trent Schneider and sprinted 22 yards for a touchdown with 9:07 to play. The 12-play, 89-yard drive marked USF’s longest of the season.

Backup quarterback Kirk Rygol capped off the scoring with a 33-yard touchdown pass to DeVontres Dukes (Tampa) in the final minute of the game.

USF returns to Raymond James Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 12 to host BYU. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. and the Bulls’ homecoming game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.