It's not how you start, it's how you finish.
For three quarters of play, the USF Bulls had penalties, missed kicks and tons of sloppy play. But in the 4th quarter, Charlie Strong's club came alive.
Trailing by 12 entering the final quarter of play, the Bulls ripped off 18 straight points to stun the Fighting Illini 25-19 on Saturday afternoon at Soldier Field.
USF QB Blake Barnett struggled early, throwing two interceptions, but he bounced back in a big way throwing a pair of touchdowns to Darnell Salomon to lead the Bulls to a thrilling comeback victory. Barnett finished the day 23-for-40 for 411 yards including those two picks and two TD throws.
After the teams swapped three-and-outs on their first drives, Illinois didn't take long to punch one in the end zone.
On their third consecutive rushing play, the Illini's Mike Epstein ran it in from 43 yards out and USF trailed 7-0.
Barnett fumbled on the very next drive, but the replay showed that his knee was down. That drive culminated with a 3-yard TD run for Jordan Cronkrite and the score was knotted at 7.
This is when the ugly play really started to show. The Bulls were penalized 14 times for 124 yards on the day, and that doesn't even include the ugliness on special teams.
USF's Coby Weiss missed two field goals badly and to make matters worse, Illinois kicker Chase McLaughlin was automatic making kicks of 26, 46, 53 and 41 yards.
The McLaughlin field goals accounted for the next four scores until the Bulls got back into the game at the start of the 4th.
On the very first play of the quarter, Barnett found Darnell Salomon in the back left corner of the end zone to bring the Bulls within five.
Weiss bounced back with a 26-yarder to make it 19-17 and then Barnett found Salomon again wide open down the left sideline for a 50-yard TD to give the Bulls a lead they would not relinquish.
Illinois tried to mount a late comeback, but Illinois QB MJ Rivers' throw as time expired sailed out of the end zone and sealed the victory for USF.
What's Next For The Bulls : USF is back in action next Saturday night as they welcome East Carolina to Raymond James Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 8pm.