MORE COV­ER­AGE IN­SIDE

■ Florida re­bounds from loss to Ken­tucky with 48-10 home vic­tory over Colorado State,

The Palm Beach Post - - SPORTS -

CHICAGO — Blake Bar­nett threw two touch­down passes in the fourth quar­ter to Dar­nell Salomon as South Florida ral­lied from a 12-point fourth-quar­ter deficit to de­feat Illi­nois 25-19 on Satur­day.

Bar­nett was 23 of 40 for 411 yards pass­ing with two touch­downs and two in­ter­cep­tions, and Jor­dan Cronkrite ran for 136 yards and a score for the Bulls (3-0).

Trail­ing 19-7 early in the fourth quar­ter, Bar­nett cut the Illi­nois lead with a 14-yard pass to Salomon to make it 19-14. Two pos­ses­sions later, Bar­nett found a leap­ing Randall St. Felix for a 55-yard catch, which set up a 22-yard field goal from Coby Weiss with 7:47 left. Af­ter an­other South Florida stop, Bar­nett con­nected with Salomon from 50 yards to score with 2:24 left to give the Bulls a 25-19 lead.

The Illini couldn’t score on its fi­nal drive thanks to a sack by Ty­rone Bar­ber at the South Florida 25 with six sec­onds left. Fresh­man quar­ter­back M.J. Rivers II threw the ball out of the end zone as time ex­pired.

Chase McLaugh­lin con­verted a field goal from 52 yards to give Illi­nois a 16-7 half­time lead.

Af­ter a shaky first pos­ses­sion, Mike Ep­stein scored on a 43-yard touch­down run on Illi­nois’ third play from scrim­mage. Ep­stein rushed for 113 yards on 19 car­ries.

South Florida, which scored 49 points in a win against Ge­or­gia Tech last, week, an­swered with a 75-yard drive. Cronkrite went in from the 3 to tie it at 7, but the Illini de­fense held for the rest of the half and forced in­ter­cep­tions by Jar­tavius Martin and Del’ Shawn Phillips, which set up field goals by McLaugh­lin.

McLaugh­lin con­nected again from 41 yards, bang­ing off the right up­right, cap­ping a 10-play, 53-yard drive late in the third quar­ter to ex­tend the lead to 19-7.

Rivers, in his first ca­reer start as quar­ter­back, was 20 of 29 for 168 yards pass­ing for Illi­nois (2-1). Rivers re­lieved A.J. Bush Jr., who was in­jured in the win against Western Illi­nois.

Illi­nois played a home game at Soldier Field for the fourth time in school his­tory. The game at­tracted a small crowd with empty seats in the west side up­per level.

Illi­nois coach Lovie Smith was back in a fa­mil­iar place. Smith re­turned to the side­line where he guided the Chicago Bears to a 2006 NFC Cham­pi­onship. Smith was also backed by his for­mer player and newly in­ducted Hall of Famer Brian Ur­lacher, who was at­ten­dance. It was like old times for Smith, who saw his team thor­oughly dom­i­nate South Florida on de­fense and spe­cial teams in the first half, a sta­ple of his mid-2000 Bears teams.

The story wasn’t the same for USF’s spe­cial teams. One week af­ter South Florida was sparked by two kick­off re­turns for touch­downs by Ter­ence Horne, the Bulls’ spe­cial teams were dis­ap­point­ing. Coby Weiss, who was fill­ing in for Jake Vivonetto be­cause of an ill­ness, missed two field-goal at­tempts. Jake Stone and Trent Sch­nei­der also strug­gled with the punt­ing du­ties.

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