USF rallies once again to knock off Illinois

by Gary Shelton on September 16, 2018 · 2 comments

in College Sports in Florida, general, USF

Barnett led a second-straight comeback for Bulls./JEFFREY S. KING

Sunday, 3 a.m.

Before they could overcome Illinois, the USF Bulls first had to overcome themselves.

Yeah, it took them most of the day to get it done.

The Bulls, for the second straight week, came from a double-digit deficit to beat the Illini Saturday afternoon, hanging on for a last-second 25-19 victory. It was 19-7, Illinois, going into the final period.

Quarterback Blake Barnett hit Darnell Salomon with a 50-yard touchdown pass with 2:24 to play.

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Mitchell Wilcox had a record day for USF tight ends./STEVEN MUNCIE

Still, the Bulls sputtered for three quarters before taking advantage of the weak Illinois defense.

-- Quarterback Blake Barnett threw two interceptions.

-- Kicker Coby Weiss missed two field goals (and kicked off twice out of bounds).

Salomon caught a 50-yarder to give USF the lead./JEFFREY S. KING

-- The Bulls were called for 14 penalties that cost them 124 yards.

-- They missed on nine of 13 third-down opportunities.

-- They allowed 212 yards rushing, a common weakness in their three victories this season. Against Elon, Georgia Tech and Illinois, the Bulls have given up 584 yards rushing.

-- USF gave up only one touchdown on the day, but the Illini drove the length of the field in the final moments before their last-ditch pass was caught beyond the end zone.

It was all enough for USF to flirt with losing. That they did not was a positive.

“We’re a better football team than what we showed today, but we come out with a win," USF coach Charlie Strong said. "At the end of the day, you want to make sure you win the game.”

“We have a bunch of talent. You look at us on offense, Mitch had eight catches. St. Felix had five and he had the really big one down there. (Salomon) had two touchdowns and Cronkrite rushed for 136, so you’ve got enough weapons. It’s all about just getting the ball and making the plays.”

Despite sputtering for much of the day, USF won. Barnett passed for both of his touchdowns in the final period. He threw for 155 yards in the fourth quarter alone.

"There's no excuses, but the day is on me and the coaching staff," Strong said. "We just didn't have our team ready to go."

USF has now won five straight games against Power 5 opponents and eight of their last nine games.

USF is home next Saturday night (8 p.m.) to face East Carolina.

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