Well that was a wild ride wasn’t it?
Coming off a bye week, South Florida traveled to Memphis for a game none of us truly could get a feel for how it would play out.
What we got was a back-and-forth shootout that went down to the wire, plenty of downright atrocious defense from both teams, and possibly the greatest individual performance from a quarterback in school history as USF escaped the Liberty Bowl with a 49-42 victory to improve to 8-2 on the year.
Let’s try to break down the madness from this all-timer.
Flowers the GOAT
Yes, we’re going to laud and praise Quinton Flowers in just a second, but lets take a step back and look at the trajectory of his career in Tampa.
It was nearly two years ago to the day that Flowers made his first ever start vs. SMU late in the 2014 season. For those of you who have blanked that forgettable season out of your memory (who could blame you), this was a point in the season where USF’s bowl chances hung by a thread and Willie Taggart started to play a maddening game of quarterback roulette in a desperate attempt to ignite a slow as molasses offense. As has been talked about here numerous times before, Flowers was plugged in to an offense that didn’t match his capabilities as an athlete, and was pulled late in the game for Mike White.
As the story goes, Taggart re-invented USF’s offensive identity to fit its parts with Flowers as the centerpiece. Fast forward a year and a half, and the junior is now straight up wrecking opposing defenses. His performance against Memphis was masterful. Here’s a laundry list of feats accomplished by the Miami native on Saturday:
- School record of 473 yards of total offense
- First USF quarterback to reach 2,000 yards passing/1,000 yards rushing in a single season
- 17th 200/200 game in college football history
- Might be confirmed as an actual wizard with abilities to turn broken plays into large gains
One of the biggest keys for Flowers was completing 83% of his passes (another school record) on 9.1 yards per attempt. He has completed 60% of his passes in each of USF’s conference victories this season, which is a welcome improvement given concerns over his accuracy at the beginning of the year. When you’re able to connect with the likes of Rodney Adams and Tyre McCants as often as possible, really, reeeeaallly good things happen.
Grinding it out in the fourth
USF was able to hang on this shootout because they dominated time of possession in the 4th quarter, keeping the ball for a full 10:20 in the final period. The Bulls’ go-ahead touchdown drive saw them grind nearly five minutes off the clock, the second longest touchdown drive of the season.
On a series of rushes by Flowers and receptions by Adams, USF converted on two third-down attempts, overcame a penalty, bled the clock, and kept Riley Ferguson and Anthony Miller off the field as they took the lead.
However, this nearly didn’t matter because...
USF is now the 3rd rated offense in the nation per S&P+. Defensively... 106th.
Look, there’s not anything left to be said really. It’s been long accepted that this defense has been bad, but only recording two TFLs in the entire game while giving up 7.5 yards per play is no bueno.
In less than a minute late in the fourth, the Bulls nearly gave their go-ahead score right back, allowing the combo of Ferguson and Daniel Montiel to zoom the Tigers offense all the way down to near the goal line.
The defense was able to hold steady with a goal-line stand (aided by a non-PI call on Deatrick Nichols on the final play) but man, who knows what further shenanigans would have ensued if the game went to overtime.
South Florida showed no signs of rust from their week off and survived a game that was every bit as entertaining as it was anxiety-inducing.
Now standing at 8-2 for just the second time in school history, the Bulls will take their talents to Dallas for a showdown with Chad Morris’s SMU team trying to get bowl eligible.