Cronkrite Leads USF Through Amherst’s Minutemen

School record for RB Cronkrite

Amherst, MA- The South Florida Bulls entered Saturday as one of 14 unbeaten teams in the nation, tied with Cincinnati and Central Florida atop The American’s Eastern Division. They’ve also been one of the nation’s best road offenses, averaging 40.6 points in their last seven games away from Tampa. With that as a backdrop, USF hit the road for their final non-conference game of the season, going to Amherst, Massachusetts, to play the UMass Minutemen, an apparently unassuming challenger.

UMass entered the game 2-4 as an FBS Independent and without their head coach, Mark Whipple, who was suspended this week by the school for describing a referee’s call in their last game against Ohio as a “rape”. Defensive coordinator Ed Pinkham took head coaching responsibilities. With no expectation of competition against a team missing their coach, USF entered expecting to dominate the Minutemen with ease. The first half was not as such, though.

The Bulls started hot, scoring on a 72-yard pass from Blake Barnett to Tyre McCants only 40 seconds into the game. UMass showed some fight, countering with a six play, 2:05  drive that ended with a 31-yard pass from Andrew Ford to Brennon Dingle. Coby Weiss landed a field goal to put the Bulls ahead before the half, but they also fumbled the football to give UMass more possession time, and only led 10-7 at the quarter turn.

UMass showed their fans at McGuirk Alumni Stadium some life in the second quarter then showed their humanity. The Minutemen decked Blake Barnett, forcing him into a Bryton Barr interception and run back to the Bull’s 13 yard line. UMass punched it in with an easy pitch and catch between Andrew Ford and Samuel Emilus to take a 14-10 lead 1:23 into the second. On the ensuing kickoff, however, Trevon Sands blasted Michael Nesmith into the ground and the Minutemen’s freshman from Hallandale Beach, Florida, didn’t get up. He was stretchered off the field and Sands was ejected from the game for targeting. USF got the ball back, but failed to score for much of the frame against an inspired UMass defense, who forced two consecutive punts, then held on a goal line stand and forced the Bulls to kick a field goal with 1:43 left. UMass appeared to have the lead entering halftime. Until Vincent Davis forced UMass’s Marquise Young to fumble the ensuing kickoff and Tony Grier recovered. One play later, Johnny Ford ran the ball 19 yards into the endzone to give USF a 20-14 halftime lead.

The third quarter belonged to the Bull’s junior running back from Miami, Jordan Cronktite. After a strong defensive start to the quarter, Cronkrite ran the ball 77 yards to the endzone for a two play scoring drive. On the team’s next drive, Cronkrite took a 4th down and 1 to the endzone for a 30 yard touchdown score. On the ensuing kickoff, UMass fumbled the ball again, and Vincent Davis recovered the fumble for a special teams touchdown to blow the lead open to 34-14.

UMass changed quarterbacks, going with Ross Comis rather than Andrew Ford, but the Minutemen were too deep into a hole to climb back out. They ran their offense through the Bulls for a total of 472 yards of offense, but could not contain Jordan Cronkrite, who set an American Athletic Conference and USF record for yards in a game with 302 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The previous USF record was 275 yards, co-owned by Andre Hall (2004) and Marlon Mack (2014). Cronkrite scored on runs of 77, 30, and 76 yards in the third quarter alone.

The teams traded points for the remainder of the game and USF walked out of Amherst with a convincing 58-42 victory. Blake Barnett posted 209 yards passing on 17-24 and threw one touchdown, on his first complete pass of the game, and one interception. Johnny Ford rushed for 81 yards and two touchdowns. As a team, the Bulls put up 574 yards of offense.

UMass put up a spirited fight, with 401 total passing yards and 486 yards total. They scored 40+ points for the fourth time this season. The Minutemen’s record drops to 2-5. Head Coach Mark Whipple returns this week to work and UMass next plays on October 20th in Amherst against Coastal Carolina. Kickoff is at 3:30 in McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

USF runs their record to 5-0. They are one of 11 remaining unbeaten teams in the nation. Charlie Strong’s Bulls travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to play the Golden Hurricanes in a conference showdown on Friday, October 12th at 7:00 pm ET in H.A. Chapman Stadium.

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Chris is a proud Boston University Terrier ('16). While at BU, he studied political science, hosted a radio show, and covered the school's basketball team. Since graduation, he's attended the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, covered College Hockey's biggest events, and joined the Sports Talk Florida crew to cover notable northeastern sports happenings. You can find his fedora on press row at various hockey rinks or wandering PGA Courses