Banged-up USF might turn to Kirk Rygol for East Carolina

Journal: The junior walk-on shows some promising flashes in his fourth-quarter cameo at Navy.
USF quarterback Jordan McCloud, who is definitely not 100 percent, runs with the ball as Navy safety Kevin Brennan (10) tries to stop him during the first half Saturday in Annapolis. Navy won 35-3. Julio Cortez  |  AP
USF quarterback Jordan McCloud, who is definitely not 100 percent, runs with the ball as Navy safety Kevin Brennan (10) tries to stop him during the first half Saturday in Annapolis. Navy won 35-3. Julio Cortez | AP
Published October 19
Updated October 20

ANNAPOLIS, Md. ― USF’s decimated quarterback depth chart just might feature a walk-on atop it next weekend at East Carolina.

Coach Charlie Strong suggested 6-foot junior Kirk Rygol, who spent last season at a private, two-year program in Brooklyn, could lead the Bulls against the Pirates if redshirt freshman Jordan McCloud (wrist, shoulder) still is hurting.

“We’re gonna see where Jordan is and just try to get him healthy," Strong said following the Bulls’ 35-3 loss to Navy.

"He’s not healthy. Wasn’t healthy last week and then we bounced him back this week. … We’ve got to get our best player out there on the field and right now he gives us the best chance to win.”

Strong didn’t clarify to which “he” ― McCloud or Rygol ― he was referring, though the latter moved the offense in his only full possession Saturday.

Rygol’s first pass, an intermediate throw to fellow walk-on Bryce Miller, went for 28 yards. He later completed consecutive throws of 24 and 10 yards to tight end Jacob Mathis, the first on a roll-out while under duress.

He finished 4-for-7 for 64 yards, showing more aerial production in 1½ possessions (albeit against Navy reserves) than McCloud did for the game (11-for-23, 50 yards, one interception).

“(Rygol) is the shortest of ’em all," USF offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell said in mid August. “But he’s got a natural little savvy about him.”

MORE RYGOL: USF could be close to settling on No. 3 QB

A 3,500-yard passer as a senior in 2016 at Nation Ford High in Fort Mill, S.C., Rygol originally signed with Division II North Greenville (S.C.) State. He redshirted last season at ASA College (a private, for profit two-year program) in Brooklyn.

A sign of surrender?

Strong set off a firestorm of sorts on social media (and perhaps among most of his fan base) when he opted to send out his field goal unit ― instead of taking a shot at the end zone ―with three minutes to play and the Bulls facing fourth-and-goal at the Navy 16.

Preceding the attempt (a missed 33-yarder) was a Navy sack of Rygol on third down, a Mitch Wilcox false start at the Midshipmen 7, and an incompletion on second down.

“We threw the ball out there, then we dropped it," Strong said. "Then (Rygol) scrambled around and got sacked. You get so frustrated and we’re not creating points. We were placed in that position three or four times and we didn’t get anything out of it.”

Odds and ends

USF running back Jordan Cronkrite, right, runs the ball as Navy linebackers Nizaire Cromartie (56), Diego Fagot (54) and Tama Tuitele (53) and defensive tackle J'arius Warren (94) try to bring him down. Julio Cortez  |  AP
USF running back Jordan Cronkrite, right, runs the ball as Navy linebackers Nizaire Cromartie (56), Diego Fagot (54) and Tama Tuitele (53) and defensive tackle J'arius Warren (94) try to bring him down. Julio Cortez | AP

With his 67-yard scoring run in the first period, Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry became the fourth 3,000-yard rusher in Navy history. ... Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo on his team’s defensive effort against USF (which totaled 264 yards): “I have been in this stadium for 22 years and man, that’s as dominant of a defensive performance as have seen, against a really good team, in a long time.” ... With three more takeaways Saturday, USF now has 18 this season; it entered the weekend ranked fourth nationally in that category. ... Senior tailback Jordan Cronkrite (17 carries, 76 yards) fell short in his quest for a third consecutive 100-yard effort.

Audible

“It’s gonna come down to if you love it or not, and I feel like all our guys love football and they love to be here. We’ve got a great opportunity ahead of us.” ― Sails, when asked if the 3-4 Bulls can rally in the season’s final month

Takeaways

So much for that misguided perception that the service academies don’t possess Power Five-type speed. Navy sophomore fullback Jamale Carothers (5-foot-9, 203 pounds) converted a simple dive play into a 58-yard touchdown by just plain outrunning the Bulls defense.

While the transfer portal greatly benefited USF on defense (where four of Saturday’s starters were transfers), it crippled the Bulls on the other side. With Blake Barnett (ankle) done for the year, the Bulls really could use another seasoned quarterback like…say…Chris Oladokun (now at Samford).

Even if USF wins at East Carolina next weekend, it must win twice in November to achieve bowl eligibility. You tell us: Who will they defeat from among Temple, Cincinnati, Memphis and UCF?

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