Last year the USF Bulls came into the season with expectations that couldn’t have been higher. Quinton Flowers was a legitimate Heisman candidate and the team was the chic pick to be the non power 5 school to make a New Year’s 6 bowl game. When the season started they played like that pressure was mounting on them. Even though they won their 1st 2 games against San Jose State and Stony Brook, they started slow and the hype went down in the eyes of national pundits. This year they come into the season under the radar, but with a former 5 star recruit at quarterback in Blake Barnett. They also came into their season opener against Elon once again as more than 20 point favorites. This year they lived up to the hype and more. Barnett was virtually flawless and the Bulls put on a performance that they should against an FCS foe defeating the Phoenix, 34-14.
Elon received the opening kick to start the game and the Phoenix actually got a good drive going. They got into Bulls territory and were close to field goal range before Vincent Jackson made made a big play for the defense and picked off Davis Cheek on 3rd down. Then it was time for the Blake Barnett era to start and his 1st drive didn’t take long. The Bulls went 70 yards in just over a minute. The drive was capped by a beautiful 40 yard touchdown pass from Barnett to Randall St.Felix.
The 2nd quarter featured a very similar theme to the 1st. The Bulls got a field goal on their 1st drive of the quarter to extend the lead. Then it was turnover time again. Mike Hampton was the one who would intercept Cheek this time. Barnett and company took advantage again. This time it was a 16-yard connection with Tyre McCants that put the Bulls up by 17. Barnett wouldn’t even slow down after that. He continued to make his main targets happy when he connected with Mitchell Wilcox for a 14-yard touchdown to put his team up 24-0. Barnett finished his 1st half as a Bull 14-20 passing with 223 yards and 3 touchdowns. Considering the starts the team got off to in games last year against San Jose State and Stony Brook, that 1st half was a smashing success.
Barnett came out to start the 2nd half for the Bulls as well and led them on a methodical touchdown drive that seemed to take longer than all of their other scoring drives behind. Barnett was stuffed on a read option on 3rd and goal, but his coach had the confidence in him to call his number on 4th and goal. He ran it in from 3 yards out to extend the lead even further. Barnett’s day ended in the 3rd quarter after Elon finally ended the shutout. With Kean entering the game, Barnett’s stat line was 24-34 for 305 yards, 3 passing and 1 rushing touchdown.
Elon added another touchdown early in the 4th quarter to make it 31-14. That ended Kean’s night early, but not in favor of Barnett. Sophomore, Chris Oladokun entered the game at quarterback. It looked like they were just rotating series after that because Kean re-entered the game after Oladokun’s series ended in a punt. Kean’s second drive was more fruitful as the 9-play drive ended with a 41-yard field goal that put USF back up by 20.
After somewhat of a cupcake to start the season, the Bulls face an entirely different challenge next week. A power 5 foe out of the ACC will come to town. Paul Johnson’s triple option offense and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will buzz their way into Raymond James Stadium. Kickoff for that game is scheduled for high noon and will be a nationally televised contest.