Jacksonville Sports Day

USF: Two Rush for 100-Plus Yards to Help Bulls Reach 7-0

Photo by OCTAVIO JONES/Tampa Bay Times

TAMPA – Johnny Ford and Jordan Cronkrite both rushed for 100-plus yards as No. 21/20 USF posted the program’s second straight 7-0 start to a season with a 38-30 victory over UConn before a homecoming crowd of 41,127 at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday night.

One of just five remaining unbeaten teams in FBS football, No. 21/20 USF (7-0, 3-0 in The American) seized the momentum with a 17-point third quarter and totaled 611 yards on the way to matching the program’s best-ever start to a season. After heading into halftime tied at 7-7, USF registered 199 of its 346 total rushing yards during a 31-point outburst in the second half.

USF finished with two 100-yard rushers for the 15th time in program history. Ford scored three times on seven carries and finished with 164 yards in his first career 100-yard game. The freshman from Miami set a USF game record (minimum five carries) with 23.4 yards per attempt and now owns USF’s longest non-scoring run after breaking off a 78-yarder in the third quarter.

Cronkrite extended his 100-yard rushing streak to five games with 103 yards on 16 carries. The junior’s five straight 100-yard rushing games match the program record also held by Quinton Flowers (2016) and Marlon Mack (2015).

Quarterback Blake Barnett rushed for 78 yards on 10 carries and scored his team-leading seventh touchdown on the ground from 20 yards out during USF’s 17-point third quarter. Barnett also shook off two early interceptions to complete 20 of 28 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown.

Redshirt freshman Randall St. Felix caught two passes for a game-high 123 yards and ignited USF’s 17-point third quarter with a 75-yard touchdown reception on the Bulls’ first offensive play of the second half.

In the 16th meeting between the programs, UConn (1-6, 0-4 in AAC) grabbed a 7-0 lead near the midpoint of the opening quarter and USF evened things up just before halftime. Ford’s 15-yard touchdown run with 43 seconds before the break capped off a seven-play, 80-yard drive.

USF seized the lead on its first offensive play of the second half when St. Felix took a short pass and went the distance for a 75-yard touchdown. It marked USF’s longest pass play of the season and extended St. Felix’s catch streak to seven games.

Big plays continued for the Bulls midway through their 17-point third quarter when Ford covered 78 yards on USF’s longest ever non-scoring run. The ninth-longest run in USF history helped set up Coby Weiss’ 30-yard field goal that extended the lead to 17-7 with 6:07 to go in the quarter.

After UConn cut its deficit to 17-14, Jernard Phillips got the Bulls back into scoring position with a career long 69-yard kickoff return. Two plays later, Barnett registered his team-leading seventh rushing touchdown of the season from 20 yards out with 2:34 remaining in the third quarter.

Nick Roberts’ 61-yard interception return set up Ford’s second 15-yard rushing touchdown to help pump the USF lead up to 31-14 less than a minute in the fourth quarter. Roberts matched his career high with 10 tackles while fellow redshirt freshman Mekhi LaPointe  set a new career high with a game-high 11 tackles.

UConn responded with 10 straight points before Ford’s 43-yard rushing touchdown helped put USF ahead, 38-23, with 4:46 remaining. UConn cut the lead to 38-30 with 2:24 remaining but never got the ball back.

USF heads back on the road for a conference test at Houston on Saturday, Oct. 27. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on ABC.

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