Barnett sizzles in first start for USF

by Gary Shelton on September 2, 2018 · 0 comments

in College Sports in Florida, general, USF

Blake Barnett had an impressive debut for Bulls./STEVEN MUNCIE

Blake Barnett had an impressive debut for Bulls./STEVEN MUNCIE

Sunday, 3:30 a.m.

For so  long , he waited. For so many miles, he had wondered. For an eternity, it seemed, Blake Barnett waited for college football to come to him.

Understand, then, that Barnett didn't simply make his debut for South Florida Saturday night.

Barnett kicked in the doors and shouted his arrival.

Barnett, the new quarterback of the USF Bulls, finally has found a home. After 21 practices, he started a game for the Bulls, and he was spectacular.  In the Bulls' season-opener, he threw for 305 yards in less than three quarters, threw for three touchdowns and ran for another and hit 24 of 34 passes.

Blake Barnett threw for 305 yards in less than three quarters./STEVEN MUNCIE

Blake Barnett threw for 305 yards in less than three quarters./STEVEN MUNCIE

Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the GarySheltonSports.com blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on GarySheltonSports.com.

True, it was only against Elon, a playoff team in the FCS last year. The road will get rougher, and more and more pressure will mount. But for one night, at least, Barnett showed while Alabama thought of him as a prime recruit, and why coach Nick Saban was upset when he transferred.

Mitchell Wilcox celebrates after scoring a touchdown./STEVEN MUNCIE

Mitchell Wilcox celebrates after scoring a touchdown./STEVEN MUNCIE

Barnett, from California, first signed with the Tide and moved across the country to Alabama. But after starting his first game, the Tide went with Jalen Hurts, and Barnett transferred to Arizona State. Then he transferred to USF.

For Barnett, it was a winding road to an end zone. He was briefly a starter at Alabama, He threw five passes at Arizona State. So understand, Barnett was busting to play Saturday night.

"I've found a home," he said.

After such a journey, it was about time. Barnett hit three passes of 40 yards or longer and led the Bulls to a 34-14 victory. It was 31-0 when he left the game.

"I want to keep growing and getting better," said Barnett, who said the game was his 22nd day in pads for the Bulls. "I'm not happy with my performance tonight. I

Randall St. Felix had 143 yards receiving./STEVEN MUNCIE

Randall St. Felix had 143 yards receiving./STEVEN MUNCIE

can think of a lot of things I could have done better. I thought there were a lot of things we executed, but not enough."

Think of the debuts of past Bulls' quarterbacks, and you might get some idea of where Barnett ranks. He had six fewer yards than Mike White in 2013, but White lost to Houston by two touchdowns. He didn't beat a team like FSU, like B.J. Daniels did in 2009, but Daniels hit only eight of 21 passes for 215 yards. Evem the great Quinton Flowers, in his only start as a freshman, threw for only 105 yards against SMU in 2014.

"I think he’ll get really better," said USF coach Charlie Strong. "He just really hasn’t learned it all yet. We’re into fall camp, so we’re going against one another. Good on good. What helped Blake is that we play so much man coverage that he

Khalid McGee with a tackle./STEVEN MUNCIE

Khalid McGee with a tackle./STEVEN MUNCIE

had to throw the ball into tight coverage all the time. He’s always getting pressure from somewhere. In a game, you’re not going to get that. You won't be getting guys pressing you every play.

"He can put it there. Tonight is just the start of what he can become."

You wonder how much of a relief this was for Barnett. No one likes to admit they're at the wrong school. No one wants to swallow the frustration of being a big-time recruit who flops.

"When we made the decision to go with him, it was based on consistency," Strong said. "He didn’t always play a the level you expected him to play, but he played good enough. It was like 'Hey, let's go with him. He’s probably the one who can get it done.'"

Charlie Strong says his team has to be better./STEVEN MUNCIE

Charlie Strong says his team has to be better./STEVEN MUNCIE

USF looked crisp for three periods. The Bulls lost some juice when they started to play their backups, particularly their backup quarterbacks.

"We've got to learn to finish," Strong said.

Barnett's chief weapon on the night was Randall St. Felex, who caught seven passes for 143 yards. Kicker Jake Vivonetto kicked two field goals

Defensively, Jaymon Thomas and Khalid McGee each had 211 gackles and Bentlee Sanders had 10.

Strong insisted the Bulls had to play better next week when they play ACC opponent Georgia Tech. "If we don't account for the quarterback, the fullback and the running back, they'll go up and down the field on us," Strong said.

Tyre McCants scores on a 16-yard pass./STEVEN MUNCIE

Tyre McCants scores on a 16-yard pass./STEVEN MUNCIE

Share with:Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: