Jacksonville Sports Day

USF: Bulls Suffer 14-10 Loss at Georgia Tech

ATLANTA – Led by freshman backup quarterback Jordan McCloud and two straight second-half takeaways by the defense, USF nearly erased a double-digit fourth quarter deficit for the second straight year against Georgia Tech before falling, 14-10, Saturday at Bobby Dowd Stadium.

“We had our chances. We had the ball first-and-goal at the 1-yard line. We get a penalty, then we go backwards, then we turn it over. We had our chances, it was there for us. We’ve just got to convert when we have those opportunities,” said USF head coach Charlie Strong.

McCloud threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Ford to help cut the deficit to 14-10 with 14:53 remaining in the game after junior cornerback KJ Sails’ first interception as a Bull on a tipped pass from Patrick Macon.

On the very next drive, senior defensive end Darius Slade recovered a fumble forced by sophomore safety Nick Roberts at the USF 45.

McCloud completed 4 of 5 passes for 90 yards in his relief effort, including a 54-yard connection with Mitchell Wilcox that set USF up for the potential go-ahead score at the Tech 1-yard line.

“We just needed a change-up and we just needed to get going. We weren’t moving the ball. We got enough around us where we could move the football, so we gave Jordan a chance to let him come in,” Strong said of the QB change

Jordan Cronkrite’s potential go-ahead touchdown dive from the two was ruled short of the goal line on review. His fumble following reaching the ball out resulted in a loss of possession at the goal line with 10:03 to play.

USF looked to have stopped Tech with just over two minutes to play following a tackle by Macon on a third and long play, but replay officials observing from the press box called for a review on the play and ruled Macon had made helmet to helmet contact.

The unsportsmanlike penalty resulted in a 15-yard gain and a first down, which allowed Tech to run out the clock.

In addition to two takeaways, USF’s defense fueled the comeback by limiting to Georgia Tech to 116 total yards and no points in the second half.

Led by junior defensive tackle Kevin Kegler’s career-high 2.5 tackles for loss, USF racked up 13 tackles for loss and forced six punts. The Bulls had entered the game ranked eighth nationally in tackles for loss after posting 11 vs. Wisconsin.

Despite the USF defense forcing four punts in the first half, Georgia Tech took a 14-3 lead into the locker room thanks to a two-touchdown second quarter.

The Bulls’ defense held Georgia Tech to 257 yards in the game, 345 yards less than the 602 yards Tech posted in Tampa last year. Tech scored 14 points and posted 294 total yards vs. defending national champion Clemson on the road in Week 1.

On the opening drive, USF’s defense forced its first of three three-and-outs in the first half and Georgia Tech missed a field goal before the Bulls took a 3-0 lead.

Redshirt sophomore Randall St. Felix’s 22-yard reception on fourth-and-4 from the Tech 38 helped set up a 27-yard field goal by junior Coby Weiss with 3:40 remaining in the first quarter.

Jordan Mason’s 1-yard touchdown run gave the Yellow Jackets the lead less than four minutes into the second quarter. Tobias Oliver’s 7-yard touchdown run with 53 seconds left in the half helped spot Georgia Tech a 14-3 advantage.

Sails delivered the big play USF needed in the second half, intercepting his first pass as a Bull and returning it 6 yards to the Georgia Tech 25 late in the third quarter.

USF cashed in three plays later with Ford’s 20-yard touchdown reception on a pass from McCloud with 15:53 to play.

Following the score, USF’s defense delivered again with Roberts’ forced fumble recovered by Slade at the Bulls’ 45 with 11:33 remaining.

“It was good and our defense played very well, but it’s still a team game and we’ve got to play together as a team. We know this, we had a chance to pick that ball up and score when we fell on it. We should have just scooped and scored, and scored a touchdown,” Strong added.

The very next play, McCloud found Wilcox for a 54-yard connection down to the Tech 1-yard line. Wilcox became USF’s career tight end receptions leader (76 rec.) on the play and finished with three catches for 60 yards.

Facing constant pressure by the Tech defense, Barnett finished 12-for-20 through the air for 79 yards. The senior from Corona, Calif., also had eight carries for 42 yards, including a career long 48-yard run.

The Bulls return to Raymond James Stadium to host South Carolina State on Saturday, Sept. 14 at 6 p.m.

USF NOTES: Two turnovers cost the Bulls, including one on a chance at a go-ahead score in the fourth quarter…the USF defense held Tech to 257 yards of total offense, 345 less than the Yellow Jackets put up in Tampa last season (602)…USF’s defense racked up 13 tackles for loss after finishing with 11.5 TFLs in Week 1…USF is now 1-1 all-time against Georgia Tech after erasing a 10-point fourth quarter deficit in a 49-38 victory over the Yellow Jackets last season in Tampa…senior Mitchell Wilcox is now USF’s career tight end receptions leader with 76 and set the new record on a career long 54-yard catch in the fourth quarter…junior CB KJ Sails’ first interception as a Bull late in the third quarter and senior DE Darius Slade’s first fumble recovery with the program in the fourth quarter sparked the comeback attempt.

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