SAN JOSE, California — The #19 USF Bulls managed only 22 yards of offense in the first quarter and fell behind 16-0, but added 526 more and 42 straight points in the final three frames en route to a 42-22 win over San Jose State on Saturday night at CEFCU Stadium.
“We just have so many leaders. You look at Quinton (Flowers), D’Ernest (Johnson), you look up front with (Cameron) Ruff, there’s so many leaders… and they didn’t panic. They kept saying, ‘Guys, we’ll be fine, we’ll come back. We just have to get settled down.’”
The Bulls (1-0) ran a school-record 101 offensive plays, breaking the school record set against Pittsburgh in 2001. Their 74 rushing attempts were also the most in team history, breaking 66 carries against C.Florida in 2005.
Senior quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Quinton Flowers overcame quite a few drops to finish 11-for-23 passing for 212 yards and two touchdowns. He added 70 yards on 18 carries and a rushing TD, bringing him to 31 career rushing scores. He sits one behind Marlon Mack on the USF career rushing TD list.
"It's kind of like the first time going against a different team, so you're gonna have a lot of miscommunications, but at the end of the day we had to talk to the guys and bring everybody together, and you see we came out with the win,” said Flowers after the tough first quarter, which saw the Bulls run 19 plays for just 22 yards and complete no passes.
Senior wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling led all pass catchers with six catches for 91 yards, including a 50-yard grab. Seven different receivers made a catch, including Darnell Salomon’s first USF touchdown and senior Rice transfer Temi Alaka’s 49-yard scoring scamper in the second quarter that gave USF the lead for good.
But much of the Bulls offense came on the ground, with senior backfield duo of D’Ernest Johnson (22 carries, 99 yards, two TD’s) and Darius Tice (20 carries, 94 yards, one TD) giving the Bulls the offensive balance needed.
The much-maligned USF defense of 2016 found more success to open 2017, forcing three interceptions and holding the Spartans (0-1) to 4.4 yards per play. 23 Bulls made a tackle, led by Ronnie Hoggins with eight and two pass breakups.
'(We knew that) we could play ball. We knew what we had to do. We just had to go out there and execute what we had to do, and you saw that in the second half, in the second quarter. We executed on defense and it gave time for our offense to come around and start scoring points,” said senior cornerback Devin Abraham, who finished with three tackles, an interception and a pass breakup. “It was just a matter of executing. We just had to execute, make tackles, and do what we had to do.”
The win overshadowed some difficulties on special teams. Emilio Nadelman put two kickoffs out of bounds, the punting unit conceded a block to set up a Spartans TD, and the Bulls caught a break when an onsides kick in the fourth quarter that was recovered by the San Jose State was called back for an illegal touch.
Punter Jonathan Hernandez, who set a school record with 11 punts, also pinned SJSU at the 1-yard line twice, including this beauty that blew up Twitter.
The Bulls flew back to Tampa immediately after the game, and will face Stony Brook at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.
Much more to come from San Jose.