Ford's Big Night Helps Bulls Avoid Upset Against UConn

This USF football team never makes it easy. The Bulls came into Saturday night looking to tie a program record by starting 7-0 for the 2nd straight season. 7-0 was the score for most of the 1st half in favor of UConn. True freshman Johnny Ford ran it in from 15-yards out with 43 seconds left in the half and the Bulls would never trail again. Randall St.Felix broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and took of for a 75-yard touchdown run on the very 1st play of the 2nd half to put USF in front. UConn wouldn’t go away easily though. They cut a 17-point lead to 8 in the 4th quarter, but Johnny Ford continued to be too much. The true freshman ended the night with 3 touchdowns and 164 yards rushing on only 7 carries. UConn did look to have a great chance in the final minutes after recovering an onside kick, but that recovery was nullified because they were flagged for being offsides. The Bulls recovered the next attempt and ran out the clock to ice the 38-30 victory. 

Last Friday night was one that the USF Bulls wanted to forget before the 4th quarter. It looked like deja vu again in the first quarter for the Bulls. The lowly UConn Huskies went 3 and out on their 1st drive, but after a Blake Barnett interception the offense woke up. They went 58 yards in 5 plays and took the lead on a Kevin Mensah touchdown run. The next drive looked promising for the Bulls but came to yet another abrupt end on another Barnett interception. UConn began another promising drive, but it was halted when they chose to go for it on 4th down instead and they didn’t convert.

The first half of the 2nd quarter was just as sleepy for the Bulls. It wasn’t the turnovers that were the bugaboo this time. Penalties were the culprit. Back to back infractions pushed a drive that had a 1st down in Huskies territory all the way back to a 3rd in 19 back in the wrong side of the 50-yard line. The defense kept the team in the game and the offense finally started clicking. The Bulls started at their own 20 with 3 minutes left in the half and went the length of the field in just over 2 minutes. Jordan Cronkrite sparked the offense with some big runs, but it was Johnny Ford who ran it in from 15 yards out to finally draw the Bulls back even. 

The start of the 2nd half was exactly the opposite for the Bulls. Blake Barnett got the ball out quickly to Randall St.Felix on the 1st play from scrimmage. The speedy receiver broke a tackle and sprinted 75 yards to paydirt. That touchdown gave the Bulls their first lead of the ball game. USF looked to add to that lead on their next possession and were in position to, but last week’s hero, Coby Weiss missed a 34-yard field goal and the lead would remain at 7. Weiss would get some redemption on the next drive. A 70-plus yard run from Ford was the biggest play for the Bulls and Weiss connected from 30 yards out to make it a 17-7 game. UConn wouldn’t go quietly into the night though. David Pindell engineered his second scoring drive of the game and ran it in from 5 yards himself to cut the lead back to 3 in short order. USF then got a huge kickoff return to flip the momentum back immediately after. Wheels Barnett showed up right after with a 20-yard touchdown run to give the home team some breathing room yet again. 

The 4th quarter started with a big play on the defensive side of the ball. Nick Roberts intercepted and off-target Pindell pass and had a great return that didn’t leave much work for the offense. Johnny Ford did that work. His 2nd touchdown run of the night put the Bulls in front by 17 early in the final frame. A Mensah touchdown run on the next Huskies’ possession kept them in the game, but the Bulls blocked the extra point to keep the lead at 11. Jordan Cronkrite then made a big mistake on the ensuing Bulls possession. The star running back fumbled and gave the ball back to UConn deep in USF territory. They couldn’t score a touchdown but Clayton Harris’ 38-yard field goal got the upset minded Huskies within a touchdown and 2-point conversion. The Bulls best player all night then came through when they needed him the most. Ford took off on a 43-yard touchdown run to make the lead 15 with under 5 minutes to play. That was the freshman’s 3rd touchdown run of the night on only his 7th carry. The defense though couldn’t shut down the Huskies on their next time out. Some penalties helped along the way and Pindell got another touchdown run, this time from 12 yards out, to cut the lead back to 8 once again. UConn then made a mistake that a 1-5 team can’t make when they are trying to upset an unbeaten foe. They recovered an onside kick, but were flagged for being offsides. 

Next week the Bulls head out on the road for what will be their toughest test of the season to this point. They head to the great state of Texas to take on the 6-1 Houston Cougars. Last year it was Houston who ended the Bulls dream of an unbeaten season at Raymond James Stadium. Next week they get their chance for revenge against D’Eriq King, Ed Oliver, and the rest of a very talented Houston roster. Kickoff time has not yet been announced. 

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