Quinton Flowers threw for 263 yards and ran for a career-high 210 yards, carrying the South Florida Bulls (8-2, 5-1 American East) to a 49-42 win over the Memphis Tigers Saturday night.
Flowers set a USF single-game record with 473 yards of total offense. He established an American Athletic Conference record for quarterback rushing yards in a game, and had the first 200/200 game in school and conference history. He set a single-game school record for passing accuracy (82.8%) and also scored three touchdowns, including the winning score on a broken play with 1:46 remaining.
Both offenses put up big numbers in the Liberty Bowl. USF rolled up 679 yards, including a school-record 416 rushing yards, breaking the record they had just set in their last game against Navy two weeks ago. Memphis had 608 yards of total offense. The 1,287 combined yards were another record for a USF game.
The Bulls wasted little time setting the scoreboard in motion. On their first possession, Rodney Adams took a short pass from Flowers, broke two tackles and raced up the right sideline for a 49-yard touchdown. After Memphis pinned USF deep in their own territory with a quick kick, Adams took a jet sweep 92 yards for another touchdown. It was the longest run in school history and it gave the Bulls a 14-0 lead in the middle of the first quarter.
Memphis eventually found the range on offense. A Jake Elliott field goal got them on the board, followed by a Riley Ferguson quarterback sneak to cut USF’s lead to 14-10. Flowers ran 48 yards for a touchdown on a fourth down keeper, but Darrell Henderson’s 21-yard scoring run made the Bulls’ lead only 21-17 at halftime. Henderson led Memphis with 81 rushing yards, followed closely by Patrick Taylor with 79 yards and Doroland Dorceus with 76.
The second half had even more fireworks. After Daniel Hurd caught a seven-yard touchdown pass from Ferguson to give the Tigers (6-4, 3-3 American West) their first lead of the night at 24-21, Memphis recovered a surprise onside kick and looked to take a crucial two-score lead. But Deatrick Nichols intercepted Ferguson at the USF 19-yard line. Flowers completed four straight passes, then ran it in from 12 yards out to give the Bulls the lead back, 28-24.
The two teams traded touchdowns before USF’s defense managed to hold Memphis to a 29-yard field goal by Elliott. The Bulls’ 35-34 lead was in danger when they had their only failed possession of the second half, but Memphis couldn’t capitalize as Elliott missed a 50-yard field goal. Flowers and Marlon Mack (69 yards rushing, nine catches for 61 yards) drove the Bulls back down field and Mack’s four-yard run gave USF a 42-34 advantage.
It only took the Tigers one play to answer. Ferguson hit receiver Anthony Miller for a 57-yard touchdown, then found Phil Mayhue with a two-point conversion to tie the game at 42. Miller had 10 catches for 153 yards in the game, extending his red-hot streak.
Once again the Bulls answered, with Flowers willing the team down the field. He kept one drive alive with a clutch third-down throw to Adams while being dragged to the ground. Two plays later, Flowers collided with Mack in the backfield on a zone read, then recovered, ran right, got a big block from Mack, cut past a tackler at the 10-yard line and scored.
Trailing 49-42, the Tigers mounted one last drive and easily moved within sight of the USF goal line. Memphis had three chances to tie the game from the Bulls’ 3-yard line. However, Nichols broke up passes on all three plays and USF’s defense held. (Nichols himself held Miller pretty blatantly on the final Memphis play, but no flag was thrown.)
The 49 points were the most USF has ever scored in a road game. The win was also their first over Memphis since both teams joined The American.
The Bulls kept their hopes of winning the East Division alive and tied their best 10-game record at 8-2, matching the mark set by the 2002 team. They will look for a clean sweep of their cross-division games when they face the SMU Mustangs next Saturday night at Ford Stadium in Dallas.