Tampa, September 2, 2018- University of South Florida turned some heads last night in their 34-14 victory over Elon, and although this matchup wasn’t as significant, I think it still gave us and Head Coach Charlie Strong a foreshadow of what tempo is expected going further. Next Saturday’s opponent is a whole different ball-game though as Coach Strong states firmly that preparation will be more serious against a vigorous Georgia Tech offense, explaining it will be their first big-time challenge; emphasizing the team need to close out and learn how to finish football games, still satisfied overall with the unit’s individual efforts.
“This is my 22nd day in pads running this offense, their actions speak for themselves- our receivers are dangerous, our running backs are dangerous, Tight-ends, our O-linemen are doing well- so being able to be surrounded by this talent is just relieving,” QB Blake Barnett exclaims, satisfied.
Not a bad first impression, a quite notable elite presentation by starting quarterback Blake Barnett, proving his value as man #1, solidifying his spot for another week and so on, portraying what he will bring to the table with his throwing capabilities and his physicality, never being afraid to get his jersey a little dirty, in such a short time-frame that he’s been with the organization. Last night Blake racked up 305 yards passing, going 24 for 34, tallying 3 scores, 1 rushing TD on his own and a QBR of 175.1! Backups Chris Oladukon and Brett Kean entered the game late in the 3rd quarter, Chris being a little more productive with his opportunities, squeezing his way towards 2nd on the depth chart.
Fans were electric in Raymond James Stadium- the crowd ate it up, to say the least, shouting team chants, sitting on the edge of their seats enjoying their team’s fresh jersey’s and dominant opening showcase; hope to see that same excitement and attention looking towards the next 5 remaining home games this season.
Observing the running back situation, probably the most prominent featured back for USF, running back Jordan Cronkrite, was unseen as Head Coach Charlie Strong said undoubtedly he would need him to debut for this upcoming Georgia Tech matchup- smart strategical decision by the staff to give the anxious UF transfer a little more time to rest and recover; therefore 6’ 214-pound running back Elijah Mack was the one receiving most of the workload after RB Trevon Sands received some touches in the start of the game.
Someone who did show up, creating the most chatter as the possible MVP of the game along with Barnett was 6’2” 190-pound wide receiver Randall St. Felix who amassed 147 yards on 7 catches with 1 touchdown and a long catch of 52. Absolutely out-striding cornerbacks and using his length to show off Blake Barnett’s pinpoint accuracy, leading those deep balls right into his bread basket.
“He’s been making those type of catches all spring and as a red-shirt on the scout team- a big strong, physical receiver with big hands, able to stretch his vertical and go over-top of you or run you down with 5 yard catches making plays everywhere,” Coach Strong talking of WR Randall St. Felix highly.
Overall, the Bulls’ defense displayed and set the aggressive tone, with guys like DE Vincent Jackson who picked off Elon QB Davis Cheek on their first possession, Khalid McGee always around the ball, leading with 9 tackles and DB Bentle Sanders also collecting 9 tackles, playing very well in his first start. The defensive line’s pressure and presence not to go un-noticed, guys such as DE Kirk Livingstone, DT Kevin Bronson and LB Greg Reaves keeping Elon’s offense on their toes and posting a few sacks and TFL’s.
Special teams executed very efficiently, setting up Elon’s drives for failure with seamlessly placed long punts, enhancing USF’s red-zone chances and kicking a couple field goals and extra points to contribute to the scoreboard.
To summarize the performances as a whole, the big picture was USF having nearly HALF the ball possession time as Elon had and were undeniably more efficient in their run and passing productions by a mile, blowing Elon’s efforts out by halftime with 4-4 red-zones chances capitalized on. Next weekend will be the start of what real trials and tribulations the team will face, taking on a stacked Georgia Tech squad and they will have to play again entirely as one, together as a whole.
Vaughan Sixbury, BCP Contributor