Jacksonville Sports Day

USF: No. 23 Bulls Rally Past Tulsa in Final Seconds to Reach 6-0

Photo by BRETT ROJO/For the Tulsa World.

TULSA – No. 23 USF rallied back from a 14-point fourth quarter deficit and defeated Tulsa, 25-24, thanks to a 22-yard field goal by Coby Weiss with two seconds remaining Friday night.

“The thing about these guys is they just don’t quit. We were down 14 with less than 10 minutes to go in the game and we get in there and get us a drive put together,” said Bulls’ head coach Charlie Strong. “If there is a bigger player than Wilcox and McCants, I’d love to see them. Those guys came down with some big catches and Blake made the throws at the right time. I’m just so happy and so proud of this team and the way they battled.”

USF (6-0, 2-0 in AAC) stormed back with 15 unanswered points and used a thrilling seven-play, 52-yard scoring drive in the final minute to improve to 6-0 for the second straight season. Weiss’ clutch kick was set up by a 32-yard catch by Tyre McCants that got the Bulls down to the Tulsa 5 before they stopped the clock with a spike.

USF put together its largest fourth-quarter comeback since rallying from 15 points down at Nevada in 2012. Getting the job done helped the Bulls become bowl eligible for the fourth straight season and they set a program record for wins across a four-season period (35-9, 79.5% winning percentage).

Blake Barnett led the fourth-quarter comeback with two touchdown runs down the stretch and delivered with his arm when USF needed it the most. The junior quarterback completed consecutive passes to Mitchell Wilcox for a total of 28 yards on the game-winning drive before his pivotal 32-yard strike to McCants. Wilcox finished with five receptions for 95 yards while McCants covered 91 yards on a game-high eight catches.

Junior back Jordan Cronkrite extended his 100-yard rushing game streak to four with 151 yards on 23 carries during a performance that included a 66-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Cronkrite has rushed for 582 yards in the past three games (second-best USF total in three straight games) and he’s well on his way to posting a 1,000-yard season with 757 yards in just five games.

After having eight days to prepare for the Bulls, Tulsa (1-5, 0-3) took a 10-3 lead into halftime despite being outgained in total offensive yards by a 171-134 margin.

“Pretty tough one to swallow. I thought our guys played extremely hard and I thought that for the most part, we controlled that game,” said Tulsa head coach Philip Montgomery. “Take your hat off to South Florida. Good football team, obviously, No. 23 team in the nation. I can promise you I’m proud of our men that are down in the locker room, with the effort and the attitude that they’re playing with and we’re right there. We’ve got to continue to keep working, continue to keep finishing.”

Tulsa grabbed a 7-0 advantage with 5:09 remaining in the first quarter and USF responded less than four minutes later with a 22-yard field goal by Weiss. The 11-play, 78-yard scoring drive was kept alive by Wilcox’s 45-yard reception on third-and-15 from the USF 12.

USF’s defense kept things close in the opening half by forcing five punts, including four three-and-outs.

The Bulls evened things up at 10-10 just over a minute into the second half thanks to Cronkrite’s 66-yard sprint to the end zone. It marked the junior’s team-leading sixth touchdown run of the year and his fourth scoring run from at least 66 yards out this season, a USF season record.

Tulsa scored 14 straight points to take a 24-10 lead into the fourth quarter before the Bulls answered back midway through the period. Barnett’s 1-yard touchdown run with 7:10 remaining got the Bulls closer but the extra-point attempt was blocked.

USF forced Tulsa’s eighth punt of the game and got the ball back with 4:48 remaining. Barnett moved the chains twice on third-and-long with runs of 13 and 11 yards before Darnell Salomon got the Bulls down to Tulsa 14 with a 31-yard catch and run.

Barnett’s 12-yard touchdown run with 2:09 to play dropped the deficit to 24-22 but he couldn’t complete the two-point conversion with his feet. USF’s defense ended up forcing Tulsa’s ninth punt of the game and the Bulls got the ball back at its own 43 with 1:03 remaining.

Key plays on the final drive by Barnett, Wilcox, McCants and Weiss helped the Bulls improve to 13-2 in games away from Tampa in the last three seasons. USF has won four straight vs. AAC West Division foes.

USF returns to Raymond James Stadium to host UConn in the program’s homecoming game on Saturday, Oct. 20. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

GAME NOTES: Weiss made USF’s first game-winning field goal since Marvin Kloss’ 44-yard field goal with 4:03 to play in a 13-10 win at UConn in 2013. …..The Bulls were one of just 11 undefeated teams entering Friday night. Charlie Strong improved to 16-2 as USF head coach……The Bulls became bowl eligible for the fourth straight season and 10th time in program history. The four straight seasons of bowl eligibility are the second-longest in program history behind six straight bowl appearances from 2005-10….Tulsa totaled 299 yards of total offense, while USF had 497 yards with 214 of those yards coming on their final three possessions. Shamari Brooks turned in his 7th career 100-yard rushing game and scored his 15th and 16th rushing touchdowns of his career.


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