Saturday night set up to be the ultimate get right game for the USF Bulls. That is exactly what it turned out to be. After 2 rough losses to start the season, Charlie Strong sat Blake Barnett handed over the reigns at quarterback to redshirt freshman, Jordan McCloud. McCloud did not disappoint in his 1st start. He got weapons like Johnny Ford and Mitchell Wilcox involved in a big way and his defense set a school record by forcing 8 turnovers en route to a 55-16 victory. McCloud finished 217 yards passing and 3 touchdowns through the air while rushing for 56 yards and 2 touchdowns in basically 3 quarters of work. McCloud exited the game early in the 4th in favor of Barnett once the game was well in hand.
Redshirt freshman, Jordan McCloud got the 1st start of his career over Blake Barnett. It looked like their might be some nerves for the Tampa native as the offense couldn’t muster any yards and went 3 and out on their 1st 2 series. The same couldn’t be said for the Bulldogs. They fumbled on their very 1st play, but rebounded on their 2nd possession. That 15 play drive stalled inside the 10, but they still converted on a 26 yard field goal to jump in front. The Bulls answered in a big way. They went 72 yards in just over 2 minutes and the drive was capped by McCloud hitting Johnny ford in stride on a beautiful 42-yard touchdown pass that put USF in front.
McCloud had another big play in him to close out the 1st quarter when he took off on a 31-yard run that gave the Bulls a 1st and goal to start the 2nd quarter. They couldn’t cash in on a touchdown, but Coby Weiss connected on a 20-yard field goal to make the lead 7. The Bulls defense forced their 2nd turnover of the game when Bentlee Sanders scored a strip sack on Tyrece Nick. 3 plays later, McCloud found Mitchell Wilcox on a 20-yard touchdown pass that made the score 17-3. South Carolina State got some momentum going and were about to cash in after a long drive, but LaBron Morris fumbled going into the endzone and the Bulls defense recovered to force their 3rd turnover of the evening. The offense took advantage. McCloud led the team on an 80-yard drive that was capped with the QB taking it in for a 9-yard rushing touchdown.
South Carolina State started the 2nd half with a promising drive, but were bitten by the turnover bug once again. This time it was Nick Roberts intercepting Nick and taking it back 62 yards to give his team great field position. The Bulls found the endzone in just one play. Johnny Ford’s 2nd touchdown of the game was of the rushing variety to put USF up, 31-3. South Carolina answered with a touchdown drive under a new quarterback, Cory Fields. Datron James was the one who cashed in on an 8 yard touchdown run. The extra point was no good so the score remained 31-9. USF were able to get a little more breathing room back before heading to the final frame thanks to a 34-yard field goal from Spencer Shrader. That wouldn’t be the last score for USF before the final quarter. KJ Sails recovered a fumble and 38 seconds later McCloud found Mitchell Wilcox for their 2nd touchdown connection of the game.
The USF defense forcing turnovers wasn’t done yet. Safety Vincent Davis intercepted Fields late in the 3rd for the 6th turnover of the game. McCloud’s huge night then continued. He connected with Ford on a long pass to set up great field position and then ran it in himself for his 5th touchdown on the night. That was McCloud’s last play of the game and Blake Barnett came in at quarterback on the next drive. SC State added a score in garbage time, but they also turned it over for the 7th time. When the Bulls recovered a Fields fumble that tied a school record for turnovers in a game with 7 and set a school record by recovering 5 fumbles in a game. The Bulls set that record thanks to a Brock Nichols interception with around 3 minutes left in the game.
The Bulls will now have a bye week as they gear up to start conference play. They will be back at Raymond James Stadium in 2 weeks to host the SMU Mustangs on September 28th. Kickoff is not yet set for the conference opener, but you will hear it all from start to finish on our sister station, 1250 WHNZ.