The “Pony Express” of the early 80’s came back to life as SMU delivered a 48-21 beating to the USF Bulls Saturday afternoon in Tampa. The Mustangs remained unbeaten at 5-0 while USF fell to 1-3 in what appears to be another lost season under head coach Charlie Strong.
Redshirt freshman Jordan McCloud earned his second straight start at quarterback for the Bulls, but was sacked six times in the first half and exited with a sprained wrist before USF saw its three-game winning streak in conference openers snapped.
After scoring 55 points before the bye week, USF couldn’t stay in a rhythm on offense while red-hot SMU jumped out to a 34-0 halftime lead.
Xavier Jones’ first of two first-half touchdown runs started the scoring for SMU with 9:58 remaining in the opening quarter before USF nearly evened things up on the next drive.
Senior back Jordan Cronkrite hauled in a 31-yard reception on third-and-14 at the USF 19. The 16-play, 77-yard drive was kept alive by McCloud’s 18-yard scramble to the SMU 17 on fourth-and-7, but the Bulls came away with no points after McCloud was intercepted in the end zone.
SMU scored touchdowns on five straight possessions as senior quarterback Shane Buechele was razor sharp completing his first 13 passes, throwing three touchdown passes and running for a 10-yard touchdown.
Former starting QB Blake Barnett started the second half leading the Bulls to back-to-back scoring drives by throwing a 13-yard touchdown pass to Miller with 10:40 remaining. Miller set up his first career touchdown catch with a career long 37-yard reception on the four-play, 83-yard drive that took just 1:12 off the clock.
USF extended its scoring streak to three straight drives with Barnett’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Wilcox with 2:57 remaining. Wilcox also had a 20-yard catch on the five-play, 82-yard drive that started with a career long 30-yard reception by Mathis.
USF had won its past three conference openers before dropping its first AAC game in a season for the first time since 2015.
“It’s one of those games, and I just told our players, we will get it corrected because we’re better than that”, said head coach Charlie Strong after the loss. “We know this, it can be fixed and we’ve just got to go to work. I told our coaches that’s on us. We cannot allow our team to go out and we can’t fall behind, 34-0. We’re not good enough to get caught back up.”
USF continues conference play at UConn on Saturday, Oct. 5. Kickoff is set for noon ET, moved up from its original 7PM start as a safety precaution after receiving guidance from the Connecticut Department of Public Health as it relates to the mosquito-borne eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus.
The Bulls return to Raymond James Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 12 to host BYU (time TBA).
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