Bulls Handle Illini at Soldier Field

By on September 16, 2018



USF defeated Illinois by a final score of 25-19 on Saturday, but with the Bulls being favored by 13 entering the day, the win didn’t come as easily as many intended.

USF seemingly outplayed the Illini all day, but a run defense that fans have continually seen struggle this season and an endless stream of penalties allowed Illinois to stay in control for much of the contest.

Illinois would rush for 106 of their 212 total rushing yards in the first quarter.

The game started slow with both teams exchanging punts before Illinois broke open the scoring by getting into the end zone on consecutive explosive runs of 32 and 42 yards.


USF would answer back with a touchdown of their own after a long methodical drive ended with a three-yard punch from running back Jordan Cronkrite. With USF kicker Coby Weiss missing a field goal attempt in the second quarter, that would be the last points USF could put on the board in the first half, despite 267 total yards.
Illinois followed the USF touchdown with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that would eventually be stopped, forcing Illinois to settle for a field goal.

The Illini would tack on two more field goals in the second quarter, continuing a phenomenal day for kicker Chase McLaughlin, who would kick a perfect four for four on field goals and drill his lone extra point attempt on the day.
Illinois took a 16-7 lead into the locker room at halftime.


The third quarter saw more of the same, with the only scoring coming on an Illinois field goal. The Bulls were able to gain 160 yards in the third, with 125 coming through the air, but five penalties for 35 yards would thwart many of their scoring opportunities, again with the exception of another missed kick from Weiss.
After driving at the end of the third quarter, USF started the fourth quarter with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Darnell Salomon.

The touchdown was a welcome sight for Bulls fans as up to this point, Barnett had led his least impressive performance of the season. Although Barnett finished with 411 yards on 23 for 40 passing with two touchdowns, he often looked uncomfortable, missed a few must-have passes and seemed timid as he repeatedly opted to leave the pocket and run the ball when facing pressure from the Illinois defensive line.


USF would make a stop and settle for a field goal on the next drive, bringing the Bulls within two points at 19-17. After another clutch defensive stop, USF would field the Illinois punt at their own 15-yard line with a chance to take the lead.
The drive started with a three-yard rush from Cronkrite and then Barnett hit Wilcox for 17 yards on his career-high eighth reception of the day. On the next play Barnett connected with Tyre McCants for 25 yards and with less than four minutes left, the Bulls were down at the Illinois 40-yard line and knocking.

Next the Bulls would be backed up on a false start penalty. The came two incomplete passes and another false start flag, the 13th penalty called on USF in the game.

Facing 3rd and 20 from midfield, a lapse in coverage from the Illinois defense allowed Darnell Salomon to beat his safety and catch Barnett’s pass in stride for his second touchdown of the day, a 50-yard score, and finally USF led again. Following the two-point conversion pass to Randall St. Felix, USF had snatched the 25-19 lead from the Fighting Illini.


Illinois would take over with 2:24 and the USF pass rush brought back flashes of their final stand from the week before against Georgia Tech, sacking the freshman quarterback for Illinois, M.J. Rivers, three times on the final drive.
USF would finish with five total sacks and as Rivers’ final pass sailed out of the end zone while the clock expired, they had successfully ripped away their second Power 5 win in as many weeks.

USF will return home next Saturday, September 22nd as they take on conference foe ECU. The game will kick off at 8 p.m.

By the numbers:
• QB Blake Barnett ranks 14th in the nation with 306.0 passing yards per game.
• The USF defense is tied for 16th in the nation with four interceptions.
• RB Jordan Cronkrite rushed 22 times for 136 yards against Illinois.
• TE Mitch Wilcox had a career-high eight receptions for 109 yards against Illinois.
• WR Terrance Horne Jr. continues to lead the nation in yards per kickoff return with 47.0 yards per return.



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