Jacksonville Sports Day

USF: Bulls Begin Scott Era With Convincing 27-6 Win Over The Citadel

TAMPA (FLSPORTSWIRE) – All three phases of the game helped make Jeff Scott a big winner in his collegiate head coaching debut, as the Bulls opened the 2020 season with a 27-6 victory over The Citadel on Saturday night in Raymond James Stadium.

Really, I told our guys from Day One that, ‘Hey, this is a new beginning. It’s a new start.’ I felt like as a coaching staff, we came in and really set the standard. We let the guys know very clearly what the standard was gonna be, to be a part of the team,” Scott said. “Man, I’m just so proud to see those guys go reach that and meet that…I felt like our guys were ready to play. They were focused and I was just really pleased to see them play well because they were focused all week. I really wanted them to be able to see the positives that come from that.”

Minus three starters on the offensive line, USF’s rushing attack motored along with 302 yards (7.7 ypc) and two touchdowns. Sophomore Kelly Joiner Jr. led the way with eight carries for 87 yards (10.9 ypc) and a touchdown. Sophomore Johnny Ford added 71 yards on nine attempts (7.9 ypc). Despite facing difficult conditions on a rainy night in the Bay, USF didn’t turn the ball over once while running 64 plays on offense.

Grad transfer QB Noah Johnson had an impressive USF debut, rushing seven times for 49 yards (7.0 ypc) and a touchdown, completing three of four passes for 24 yards and leading two scoring drives. Sophomore starter Jordan McCloud completed 11 of 16 passes for 68 yards and a touchdown in a game that saw USF play three quarterbacks.

New coordinator Glenn Spencer’s defense performed well against The Citadel’s triple option, shutting the Bulldogs out in the second half and totaling two of USF’s three takeaways. Graduate cornerback Mike Hampton recovered a fumble on the game’s opening drive and junior defensive back Mekhi LaPointe intercepted a pass late in the fourth quarter.

Junior linebacker Antonio Grier Jr. came to play right away with 10 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble, all in the first half. Grad transfer defensive tackle Thad Mangum set a career high with nine tackles (six solo) in his first game as a Bull.

Meanwhile on special teams, freshman Omarion Dollison tied the record for the shortest punt return touchdown in NCAA history by hauling in a muffed punt in The Citadel’s end zone that helped the Bulls take a 20-6 lead into halftime. USF’s special teams kept producing big plays with a fumble recovery by senior Brock Nichols after the break.

USF set the tone in every phase of the game during a wildly entertaining first half.

Hampton’s recovery of a forced fumble by junior Rashawn Yates stalled The Citadel’s game-opening drive at the USF 39 before the Bulldogs took a 3-0 lead with 4:07 to go in the opening quarter.

USF responded right away with an eight-play, 62-yard drive that was capped off by Tampa native DeVontres Odoms-Dukes’ 10-yard touchdown reception with 49 seconds remaining in the first quarter. McCloud completed all four of his passes for 38 yards on the drive. Bryce Miller and grad transfer tight end Mitchell Brinkman each moved the chains with 12-yard receptions. Brinkman’s first catch as a Bull on third down moved USF close to the red zone.

Heads-up special teams play helped USF take a 13-6 lead in a crazy way with 6:52 to go before halftime. After the defense forced a three-and-out, Bulldogs punter Matt Campbell scooped up his dropped snap in the end zone and his desperate kick attempt fluttered into the sure hands of Dollison who tiptoed inside the pylon for an instant touchdown.

After forcing another three-and-out, USF zoomed right back into the end zone with a 9-yard touchdown run by Johnson on the grad transfer’s first drive as a Bull. The dynamic QB rushed four times for 25 yards at the end of the five-play, 60-yard sequence after running all the way downfield to block on Ford’s 43-yard run deep into Bulldogs territory.

USF’s defense pitched a shutout in the second half and the Bulls’ offense put the finishing touches on Scott’s debut with a seven-play scoring sequence in the fourth quarter. Joiner’s 3-yard touchdown completed an 86-yard drive that featured all runs and put the Bulls ahead, 27-6, with 6:55 remaining.

USF travels to South Bend, Ind., for the opener of its three-game series with No. 10 Notre Dame on Saturday, Sept. 19. Kickoff at Notre Dame Stadium is set for 2:30 p.m. (TV: USF Network).

USF NOTES: Saturday marked the winning collegiate head coaching debut of Jeff Scott, who previously had 12 highly successful seasons at Clemson, the last five as co-offensive coordinator who saw the Tigers post a 70-5 record, claim five AAC championships, make five straight College Football Playoff appearances, four CFP Championship Game trips (2015, 2016, 2018, 2019) and win national titles in 2016 and 2018. Scott, the fifth head coach in USF history, became the fourth Bulls head coach to win in his debut with the program…USF started its 24th football season and improved to 18-6 all-time in season openers. The Bulls are now 16-2 in season openers played at home and have won six of their past seven season openers overall….reshman Omarion Dollison tied the record for the shortest punt return touchdown in NCAA history (0 yards), catching a muffed punt in The Citadel end zone in the second quarter….USF improved to 2-1 in its all-time series with The Citadel. The Bulls have won two straight meetings with the Bulldogs after a 45-6 victory in Tampa in 1998.

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