The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets fell to the USF Bulls on Saturday, 49-38. The Bulls were led by a four touchdown performance by recently named starter at quarterback, Blake Barnett. Barnett’s impressive game was overshadowed in part by receiver Terrence Horne, who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in the first quarter of play, later adding a third receiving touchdown.
The Bulls had the first possession of the game, having won the toss. Florida transfer, running back, Jordan Cronkrite, made his debut as a Bull with a 14 yard run to get USF to mid-field. Two plays later, however, Barnett had his USF first, his first interception wearing the green and gold.
The Georgia Tech offense ate up the next 6:32 driving down to the USF 17, only to have their drive stall. They settled for a 35 yard field goal and an early 3-0 lead.
Yellow Jackets’ kicker, Shawn Davis, kicked the following kickoff deep into USF territory. Bulls’ receiver, Terrence Horne, fielded the kick at the USF two yard line. What happened next was a 98 yard sprint down the field, Horne untouched into the end zone. Just 12 seconds had run off the clock before answered the Georgia Tech field goal with a touchdown to go up 7-3.
Five plays later, the Yellow Jackets retook the lead. Georgia Tech quarterback, Ta’Quan Marshall, found a hole in the USF defense that he converted into a 45 yard touchdown run. With 4:38 remaining in the first quarter, Georgia Tech led, 10-7.
For reasons that may never be known to the public, Georgia Tech opted to kick the ball deep to Horne again. This time, Horne fielded the ball at the three yard line and returned it 97 yards for his second touchdown of the game. Just 14 seconds after the Yellow Jackets took the lead, the Bulls had restored their own, 14-10.
After spending more than 10 minutes on the field, the USF defense was caught off guard on the next possession. On first down from their own 19 yard line, Marshall connected with Clinton Lynch for an 81 yard touchdown reception. The Yellow Jackets were in control once again, up 17-14 with 4:21 remaining in the first quarter.
Barnett and the offense would finally take the field for the second time in the game, near the end of the first quarter. They would drive down to the Yellow Jackets’ one yard line, but were not able to punch it in with three downs. They opted to go for the touchdown on fourth down, and Darnell Salomon dropped the easy pass, turning the ball over on downs.
The bad field position was too much for Georgia Tech to overcome, however, as they went three-and-out. The Yellow Jackets punter, Pressley Harvin III, showed a very strong leg, punting from the end zone to the USF 31 yard line, where the ball would go out of bounds.
After stalling on the previous drive, the Bulls offense finally found the end zone on the following possession. Salomon redeemed himself with an 18 yard catch and run for the score, putting the Bulls back up, 21-17. His touchdown was set up in part by a 13 yard pass to tight end, Mitchell Wilcox, and a 12 yard run by Barnett.
The two teams would trade field position over the next several possessions, but the final ten minutes of the half had no further scoring.
The Yellow Jackets came out of halftime strong. On the first play of the half, Marshall rushed for a 26 yard gain. He would get hurt on the play and would be replaced by Tobias Oliver. Oliver could not be stopped. He ran five straight times, for gains of 12, 11, 7, 4, and 5 yards, with the final being for a touchdown. With 11:24 on the third quarter clock, Georgia Tech led, 24-21.
Duran Bell Jr. got into the scoring action on the next USF possession. Bell rushed for 14 yards to give his team the next lead of the game, 28-24. Big plays on the drive were by Tyre McCants, who caught a pass for a 24 yard gain, and Randall St. Felix, who had dropped a touchdown in the first half, with a 13 yard reception.
Oliver was still in control for the Yellow Jackets’ offense. On the subsequent drive, he ran six times for a combined gain of 27 yards. His final run was a one yard touchdown run, returning the lead to Georgia Tech, 31-28. Qua Searcy helped out on the drive, taking a 28 yard run on from the Georgia Tech 38 into USF territory.
USF’s next drive stalled in their own territory. Schneider’s punt gave Georgia Tech the ball on their 26 yard line.
For the first time in the game, the Yellow Jackets had the opportunity to go up by two scores. They took advantage of that opportunity. Jordan Mason was the star of that drive, running for 46 yards to the USF 28 on the first play. Six runs and a touchdown by Oliver finished off the drive. With 14:15 left in the game, the Yellow Jackets finally had a lead that USF couldn’t take away with one touchdown, leading 38-28.
The Bulls were down but not out. The next drive featured a 15 yard catch by Wilcox, a 16 yard run by Bell, and a three yard touchdown pass to Horne, his third touchdown of the game. Two minutes after falling behind by double-digits, they closed the gap to three, trailing 38-35.
The next Georgia Tech drive saw the return of Marshall to the game. Marshall connected with Lynch for a 21 yard pass on a third and long to get into USF territory. Five straight running plays got them down to the USF 19, where USF defensive back, Bentlee Sanders, forced a Searcy to fumble the football. Bulls’ linebacker, Nico Sawtelle, quickly pounced on the loose ball, ending what was likely another Georgia Tech scoring drive.
Barnett and the offense capitalized on the turnover. Cronkrite rushed for 11 yards on the first play of the drive. Barnett showed off his wheels two plays later, rushing for 22 yards. A 15 yard catch by McCants got the Bulls into Yellow Jackets’ territory, while a second 15 yard catch by McCants set up first down on the 19. Barnett finished the drive with a 19 yard touchdown run, putting the Bulls up, 42-38.
Just over five minutes remained when Georgia Tech got the ball back. They wasted no time moving the ball down the field, with Searcy running for 17 yards on first down. Yellow Jackets receiver, Jalen Camp, took an 11 yard pass to the USF 47, but a holding call would cancel the gain. Marshall attempted to pass on the next two plays, getting pressure from Bulls’ defensive end, Kirk Livingstone on both. On the second attempt, Livingstone got hands on Marshall as he was throwing the ball. The result was a pass much shorter than intended, and right into the hands of Sawtelle, who ended the prior Georgia Tech possession with a fumble recovery.
Beginning on the Georgia Tech 18 yard line, USF put the nail in the coffin. Barnett would score the final touchdown of the game on a five yard run, after forcing the Yellow Jackets to use up their time outs.
The Yellow Jackets would get the ball back with 2:13 on the clock, but the challenge of coming up with two scoring drives was too much. They managed 14 plays to get to the USF 1, but the clock ran out without another score.
Barnett finished with 202 yards passing with two touchdowns, and 91 yards rushing with two more touchdowns. McCants was his favorite target this week, catching ten passes for 99 yards. Salomon’s 37 yards and one touchdown was the next best receiving performance. St. Felix, who was last week’s receiving leader, had a long touchdown pass fall between his hands in the first half. He finished with just 23 yards on three catches, after averaging more than 20 yards per catch, in the last game.
Cronkrite was named the number one running back, but he was third on the team in rushing yards, with 39, and had just nine carries in the game. The top running back in the game was Bell, who had 12 carries for 69 yards.
For the Yellow Jackets, Marshall passed for 183 yards and a touchdown. In his absence, Oliver scored three touchdowns on 97 yards rushing. Mason also had a strong day, rushing for 95 yards. The team leader in runs, however, was Marshall, who rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown.
In total, Georgia Tech accumulated 602 yards of total offense in the loss. They gave up three turnovers and converted just three times on third down, on 12 attempts. Amazingly, both teams finished with 75 plays, despite the time of possession favoring the Yellow Jackets, 35:32 – 24:28.
Georgia Tech falls to 1-1 on the season. They’ll open conference play against Pitt on Saturday. Kickoff for that game is 12:30 EDT.
USF remains undefeated at 2-0 and will head to Chicago to play a neutral site game against the Big Ten’s Illinois on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 3:30