The South Florida Bulls pounded the Northern Illinois Huskies 48-17 at Raymond James Stadium Saturday night.
With star running back Marlon Mack sidelined with a concussion, backups Darius Tice and D’Ernest Johnson were ready to step in and carry the offensive load. That wasn’t necessary, though, as quarterback Quinton Flowers threw for a career-best 350 yards and four touchdowns.
After exchanging punts to start the game, Flowers and company got on track with their second drive. On third and eight from the USF 22, Flowers hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 45-yard gain to the Huskies 33-yard line. Flowers then threw to Tyre McCants for 13 yards, and followed that up with a 13-yard rush of his own. Rodney Adams took the handoff on the jet sweep to score from 11 yards out to put USF up 7-0.
Flowers completed 21 out of 33 passes, including a career-long 73-yarder to Ryeshene Bronson that gave USF a 14-0 first-quarter lead. He tied a career best with four touchdown passes, passing Chad Barnhardt for fourth on the all-time list with 28. His 350 yards passing were the most by a USF quarterback since B.J. Daniels threw for 359 yards vs Ball State exactly five years before.
Flowers also added 53 yards on 11 carries. After the game, though, it was the handful of missed easy passes that were on his mind.
“I feel like I left a lot of plays out there,” Flowers said. “It’s a standard I set at practice. I don’t like when I throw interceptions. I don’t like to do things bad, and I saw when I was out there I can’t let my team see that I am down. At the end of the day I have to go out there and make my reads, and I missed a lot of plays.”
USF (2-0) finished the night with 658 yards of total offense, the second-most in school history and the most ever against an FBS opponent.
Coach Willie Taggart said this was one of the best games offensively that he’s been a part of in his coaching career.
“[I]t is fun too. It is probably more fun, you know, after the first two years we didn't have an offense. It was just off,” Taggart said. “It's good now that our offense is rolling and everyone is excited.
“I'm so happy for the people that are showing up because they see an exciting group of young men out there playing some football. I think every fan base out there, what they want to see is fun football and you see that in a lot of our guys. I really appreciate the ones showing up. They’re getting their money’s worth and hopefully we can continue to do the things that we’re doing now.”
Tice ran for a career high 120 yards, his first career 100-yard rushing effort as a Bull. He added USF’s final touchdown of the night, which gave them a 48-7 lead early in the fourth quarter.
“He seem like he just drank Red Bull all day today. The kid was just so fired up all day long,” Taggart said. “Sometimes we had to tell him to just relax. I mean the entire day from breakfast all the way to pregame meal, he was going. He was just excited about the opportunity to just go out and help his football team today and it was great to seem him go out and play that way. He was ready from the time he woke up.”
Bronson caught three passes for 113 yards. The 73-yard touchdown was the second-longest of his career.
“We knew he could do it,” Taggart said of Bronson. “What’s funny about that touchdown is I think his last touchdown was the same thing the same way (a 75-yarder against NC State in 2014), same sideline. It was like the exact same thing for him, so that was cool. That was fun to see him go and get that touchdown, and that was probably like two years ago, so I know he was excited he got back in the end zone.”
Johnson added 87 yards on the ground and caught four passes for 33 yards and a touchdown.
On defense, the Bulls were able to keep NIU’s star wide receiver Kenny Golladay in check, holding him to just four catches and 43 yards. Overall, USF’s defense held the Huskies to only 318 total yards.
Linebacker Auggie Sanchez finished the game with 13 tackles, one off his career high. He had 11 in the first half to help set the tone for the game. Sanchez also had one of the Bullsharks’ two sacks, along with one from Kevin Bronson.
Striker Nate Godwin was second on the team with six tackles filling in for Malik Dixon, who was lost for the year earlier in the week with shoulder surgery.
NIU quarterback Drew Hare was ineffective, completing 13 of 20 passes for just 96 yards. In the third quarter, Hare was carted off the field after being tackled by Deadrin Senat and suffering a serious leg injury. It’s another tough blow for the redshirt senior who was two games into his return from a ruptured Achilles.
The announced attendance tonight was 36,557, and the 7,252 students that came to the game were the most since Florida State’s last visit in 2012.
The Seminoles will be back in Tampa in two weeks, but first the Bulls travel to Syracuse for a chance to face an Orange defense that basically rolled over and quit Friday night against Louisville.
“We’re excited. We take it a game at a time so we are excited for the opportunity. We just get better and better so we’ll see what the coaches have in store for us this week,” Tice said.