BULLS – AFTER THE DUST SETTLES – BYU
By Leo Haggerty
Archived under Featured Articles – College & University of South Florida
In all my years of watching football games, and that adds up to right around 55 from when I started objectively viewing gridiron contests in 1965, I have never seen one like this one. From a statistical point of view, the BYU-USF tilt at Raymond James Stadium defied belief.
Now, everyone tells you that stats are for losers. But, in this case, the numbers were so in favor of Brigham Young that I have to comment on just what transpired.
Let me share with you these facts. First, the Cougars had the pigskin 15 more minutes than the Bulls. For my readers that are mathematically-challenged, that’s one full quarter more when we look at time of possession.
Second, the visitors from Provo, Utah ran 89 plays to 58 for the Tampa-based squad. I know that all of you can add but I have to emphasize that equates to 31 more plays run by the guys in the white jerseys.
Finally, BYU converted 12-of-22 third downs as opposed to 6-of-12 for South Florida. Throw in for good measure that Brigham Young won the turnover battle 2-t0-1.
So, with all that information, how in the heck did the Green & Gold come away with a 27-23 victory? I’ll let HC Charlie Strong, along with RB Jordan Cronkrite and TE Mitch Wilcox, to explain how this went down in their own words.
LH : BYU had the football 15 more minutes and ran off 31 more plays than the Bulls. Normally, you don’t usually win those football games. How did you win this one?
CS : Well, we started off the game on offense with two straight three-and-outs. That’s not good. They took the ball, on their first drive, and drove it down the field on us. We didn’t hold them on third down. We have to get better on third down. We can, and have to, play much better. In a game like that, we just hung in there. Our guys kept getting after it. We scored when we needed to and held them to field goals.
LH : The temperature on the field may have been in the triple digits. With the opposition coming from Utah, doesn’t that work to your advantage?
CS : I was hoping it would but, in the beginning, it didn’t look like that was going to happen. They were going up-tempo on us when we should have been going up-tempo on them. Sometimes, we think that the temperature is a big deal. When you practice in it, and it’s starting to get colder right now, you just go. We got to get lined up and play. There were times when we didn’t get lined up and they caught us.
LH : It looked like Cronkrite, in the second half, just kicked it up a notch. Was that just grit and determination?
CS : He hasn’t had a chance to really run this season especially through the first three games. It’s really exciting to see him run like that and I expect that he’ll only get better. Anytime you can get your run game going, and we did, it opens up the play-action passing game. We missed a few throws. Overthrow one and the interception was another. Right now, that’s just maturity on his part. Just running the football will help us.
LH : In the second half, it looked like it was just grit and determination on your part. You weren’t going down on the first hit, were you?
JC : We worked on that all week at practice. Being physical and I wanted to run out the game for us.
LH : Those five guys in the trenches really got after it in the second half, right?
JC : They did. I get on them every day and practice and, today, they took it on to the game. They showed what they are capable of doing.
LH : I’v got to ask you the big question. Was the ball that you caught in the end zone meant for you?
MW : It was not for me. I went vertical and the defenders didn’t carry me. I just saw grass and went for it. Jordan told me afterwards that the ball wasn’t for me. I just attacked it and tried to make a play.
LH : What’s going through your mind while the football is in the air?
MW : It’s see ball and get ball. Similar to what the defense thinks. So, the ball is in the air and I looked back over my other shoulder and I was able to haul it in.
LH : Was that a huge turning point play?
MW : Yes, it felt good. I was really juiced up to make that play.
LH : Did those guys in the trenches get after it in the second half?
MW : Sure enough. They got nasty. They moved people back and created great holes for our backs.
LH : Have those guys made you an Honorary Hog yet?
MW : I guess I’m now half hog and half receiver. It’s cool that way because I get to be in both rooms.
LH : Is an ugly win better than a pretty loss?
MW : Always.
So, now you know the rest of the story. A good win for the Bulls and, to be perfectly honest, one that South Florida desperately needed to have.
Now it’s off to Annapolis for a tilt against Navy. Can the Bulls string together consecutive wins for the first time in the 2019 campaign? To see how I think the game will transpire, go to my GOAL LINE STAND column later in the week.
All game day shots by photo-journalist Trace Crisp.