(Philadelphia, PA) In a microcosm of their season, the USF Bulls (7-4, 3-4 in AAC) played well enough to build a 17-0 lead in the first half, then fell apart in the second, giving up 27 unanswered points in a 27-17 loss to Temple Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia. The game mirrors the Bull’s entire 2018 season, starting off with 7 straight wins and now four consecutive losses as the bottom has fallen out of Charlie Strong’s second season in Tampa.
USF has lost four straight games for the first time since dropping six straight at the end of the 2013 season.
Temple (7-4, 6-1 in AAC) scored touchdowns on special teams and defense, taking the lead on a 73-yard punt return by Isaiah Wright with 10:05 to play. Star back Ryquell Armstead was held to 64 rushing yards on 26 attempts, well under his 122.2 ypg average, a week after running for 210 yards and six touchdowns against Houston.
Junior Jordan Cronkrite led USF’s ground attack with 17 attempts for 83 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the fifth player in program history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Both of Cronkrite’s rushing touchdowns came during the Bulls’ 17-0 run in the opening half.
Starting quarterback Blake Barnett completed 14 of 23 passes for 82 yards and threw two interceptions after missing last week’s game with a shoulder injury.
Looking to get back on the winning track, USF jumped out to a 17-0 lead going into halftime after getting two touchdown runs from Cronkrite and a dominant effort by the defense.
After USF forced a three-and-out on Temple’s opening drive, Cronkrite passed the 1,000-yard mark with a 49-yard run on the Bulls’ opening possession. Cronkrite rushed for 56 of USF’s 60 yards on the tone-setting scoring drive that was capped off by his 3-yard touchdown run.
USF’s offense was back in Temple territory after Chris Barr recovered a fumble at the Owls’ 37-yard line on a muffed punt late in the first quarter. Eight plays later, the Bulls took a 10-0 lead with 35-yard field goal by Coby Weiss 10 seconds into the second quarter.
USF pumped its lead up to 17-0 after Cronkrite’s 1-yard touchdown run with 2:27 to go before halftime, which capped off a 12-play, 83-yard drive.
Senior Ronnie Hoggins grabbed USF’s second takeaway of the game with an interception midway through the third quarter, but Temple stormed back in the second half with 27 straight points. Wright’s 73-yard punt return gave the Owls their first lead with 10:05 remaining in the game and they never gave it up.
Kevin Kegler came up with a huge tackle for loss at the USF 45 to stuff a Temple fourth-and-1 rushing attempt with 8:13 to play, but the Bulls’ offense couldn’t capitalize. Still trailing 20-17, USF got the ball back at its own 10-yard line with 1:44 remaining but a strip sack fumble was recovered in the end zone by Temple.
“You had the ball and three opportunities in the third quarter on the plus side and we got nothing out of it”, said a beleaguered Charlie Strong. “We’ve got to be able to score points there. We had two turnovers and then we gave the ball up on downs. You can’t let that happen, especially when you’re on the road.”
USF returns to Raymond James Stadium to host rival UCF, who has already clinched the AAC eastern division with its win over Cincinnati Saturday night, on Friday, Nov. 23 at 4:15PM. The game will be televised on ESPN.
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