By Leo Haggerty

USF opened their 2018 football campaign with a 34-14 victory over Elon. South Florida moved to 1-0 while the Phoenix fell to 0-1.

Senior graduate transfer quarterback Blake Barnett played as advertised.  #11 was 24 of 34 for 305 yards and 3 touchdowns to go along with no interceptions.  He looked like he had been with the Bulls for his entire collegiate career and not just over 20 practices.

The Bulls defense was able to bend-but-not break.  A perfect example of that was the first quarter.  The Phoenix had the pigskin for over 12 minutes but couldn’t put any points on the scoreboard.  USF had it for a little over 2 minutes and put up 7 points in that short period of time.

The “D” also picked up where they left off last season when it comes to interceptions.  The Green and Gold were 2nd in the nation when it came to INTs and USF pilfered two and could have had a third.

The competition definitely kicks up a notch this week with Atlantic Coast Conference Georgia Tech coming to the RayJay.  Kickoff is schedule for 12:30 so expect a typical hot and humid afternoon in Tampa.

Had a chance to catch up with the head honcho and four team members in the post game press conference.  In the following order they are listed below:

HC Charlie Strong
QB Blake Barnett
TE Mitch Wilcox
WR Randall St. Felix
LB Khalid McGee

Photos are provided by our four-man Photo Journalist team of Jeffrey Neil Fox and John Phillips plus Trace and Matt Crisp. They had every angle covered as you’ll see below.  Enjoy

LH : You talked about closing out games.  With seven minutes to go, you’re up 17 points.  How hard is it to slow your offense down and take 30 to 35 seconds to run a play?

CS : Really, I don’t want to slow them down.  We get into a rhythm and we want to keep it.  We want our quarterbacks to play fast.  Plus, we were rotating our two other quarterbacks and they deserve a chance to play.  We don’t want to slow down.  We want to go fast and keep our offense moving.  We like to keep the pressure on defenses.

LH : With the size and speed of Wilcox, does that give you an extra wide receiver lining up at tight end?

CS : It creates a mismatch.  You’re going to get a linebacker or a safety try to cover Wilcox one-on-one.  It’s a real mismatch because he can out run a linebacker especially when we flex him out.

LH : Do you like the new fair catch rule on the kickoff?

CS : I would like it if we got some people blocking. (Laughter). With us, we have speed so we want to return kicks.  We have a lot of guys we can put back there on kickoffs that can really run so we want to return as many as we can but it really is a good rule.

LH : During your collegiate career, have you ever had these kind of weapons around you?

BB : I’ve been blessed to be around a lot of amazing players.  These guys here just let their actions speak for themselves.  Our receivers are dangerous.  Our running backs are dangerous.  The offensive line has been doing really well.  To be surrounded by these guys, that are so talented both in the skilled positions and up front, is relieving.

LH : On the first touchdown, you lined up so fast that Elon wasn’t even lined up.  Did catch that?

BB : That’s the way our offense works.  We try and go fast and get off the play before they get set.  We got some big plays because of going fast tonight.

LH : Did you ever play in an offense with this kind of tempo?

BB : Yes.  My high school went real fast.  We ran between 80 and 90 plays a game.  I’ve been exposed to this kind of speed when it comes to running plays.

LH : When you see Wilcox open like that in a short field, you have to put a little touch on the ball, correct?

BB : Oh yeah.  At first, the safety was lined up a little over him but, on the snap of the ball, he shot to the outside.  I knew we were going to have him open so all I had to do was fake it to the running back and then get it to him.

LH : On your touchdown, Barnett said he saw the safety fly out on the snap of the ball.  Did you see the same thing?

MW : Actually, after the snap, I saw the safety move outside.  That’s when I knew it was going to be six.

LH : When I asked Coach Strong about flexing you out, he had one word and it was mismatch.  Is that it?

MW : That’s our whole MO on offense.  We try to create mismatches everywhere we can.  Then we have to take advantage of them.

LH : Did Elon do anything defensively that surprised you?

MW : Not really.  We had a very good game plan and we felt we knew what they were going to run.

LH : Did Elon do anything that surprised you at all?

RS : No.  We watched film and we were ready for it.

LH : When I asked Coach Williams who is the guy he wants in a jump ball in the end zone, he said you.  Why?

RS : That’s because I feel that, when the ball is in the air, it’s mine and I go get it.

LH : Were you having trouble with cramping?

KM : No.  I got hit in the ribs.

LH : What was it like to finally hit someone in a different color jersey?

KM : It been a long an tough fall camp.  We were really ready to take on another opponent.

LH : How long are you going to be able to celebrate this win?

KM : One day. We get one day then it’s time to move.  We need to get ready for Georgia Tech.

LH : I know this may be too simple but Georgia Tech is Navy with athletes, right?

KM : Yes, Navy with athletes.  That’s pretty much it.

LH : Playing the Georgia Tech offense is strictly assignment football, correct?

KM : Yes but all 11 guys on defense have to play with effort as well.  The like to cut block.  You have to get up and run to the football.

LH : Just do you job and don’t try to do another player’s job, right?

KM : That’s it.  Everyone has an assignment and you have to do yours.