TAMPA, Fla. -- Blake Barnett may have finally found a football home.
Barnett threw three touchdown passes and ran for a fourth score in his South Florida debut and the Bulls beat Elon 34-14 in Saturday night's season opener.
The 6-foot-5, 217-pounder, the opening-game starter for Alabama two years ago who left the Crimson Tide in September 2016 and continued his career as a backup at Arizona State last season, completed 24 of 34 passes for 305 yards.
"I wouldn't say it's relief," Barnett said. "It's just preparation and time meeting an opportunity. This is the opportunity that I've really been waiting for. I was really ready for it."
Barnett is replacing USF's career total offense leader Quinton Flowers, who threw for 2,911 yards and 25 touchdowns while also rushing for 1,078 yards and 11 TDs last season.
"It's good for his confidence and good for the whole team" USF coach Charlie Strong said. "Tonight is just a start."
Backup Elon quarterback Jalen Greene entered in the third quarter and had a 12-yard rushing TD. Malcolm Summers had 62 yards on 15 carries, while starting QB Davis Cheek went 5 for 11 for 45 yards passing.
Barnett connected with Randall St. Felix on a 40-yard TD pass to cap USF's first possession, then hit St. Felix on a 52-yard completion that set up a 33-yard field goal by Jake Vivonetto for a 10-0 lead.
St. Felix gained 143 yards on seven receptions.
After Elon turned the ball over on its next possession, Barnett hit Tyre McCants for a 16-yard touchdown then connected with Mitchell Wilcox on a 14-yarder for a 24-0 halftime lead. Barnett added a 2-yard rushing score midway through the third quarter.
Greene scored late in the third before Brelynd Cyphers' 2-yard scoring run with 13 minutes left cut the Elon deficit to 31-14.
"We've got to learn how to finish," Strong said.
South Florida outgained Elon 515-234.
Elon: The Phoenix dropped to 0-11 all-time against FBS opponents.
South Florida: The defense continued its opportunistic nature with two interceptions. The Bulls were ranked second nationally last season with 20 picks.
Elon: Has its home opener next Saturday against Furman, which lost 48-7 to No. 2 Clemson on Saturday.
South Florida: Entered the season unranked after finishing No. 21 in last year's final Associated Press poll and will face Power-5 opponent Georgia Tech at home next Saturday. Georgia Tech had a season-opening 41-0 win Saturday over Alcorn State. "Next week is going to be a big-time challenge for us," Strong said. Bulls RB Jordan Cronkrite, a transfer from Florida, sat out with an undisclosed injury but is expected to play next weekend.
Breaking down the Big Ten recruiting classes
The usual suspects -- Michigan and Ohio State -- are near the top of the recruiting rankings again, but the most surprising classes in the conference are at places like Nebraska, Purdue and Wisconsin.
Biggest concern for each Top 25 team
When will Justin Fields debut at QB for Ohio State? How much turnover can Alabama handle? All of the Top 25 teams have issues to be resolved.
NFL prospect Khalen Saunders stays at Senior Bowl as fiancée has baby girl
NFL prospect Khalen Saunders of Western Illinois elected to stay at the Senior Bowl after he was informed that his fiancée had gone into labor back in Chicago. She gave birth Tuesday.
Breaking down the Big 12 recruiting classes
Oklahoma and Texas are leading the way with a combined 23 of the Big 12's 30 ESPN 300 commitments, but several other classes are also filling holes well with 2019 recruits.
NFL prospect Rashan Gary is a pioneer with own sports agency
Rashan Gary is living his dream as the founder and CEO of his own sports agency.
How Manny Diaz has Miami thinking big again
The Hurricanes' new coach isn't wasting any time changing the program. Would you expect anything else from the inventor of the Turnover Chain?