TAMPA — The #19 USF Bulls tallied just 96 yards of total offense in the first half and trailed 10-7 at halftime to FCS Stony Brook before pulling away late to win 31-17 on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.
“I thought today we were awful. I don't think we played very well at all. We're gonna get everyone's best,” USF head Charlie Strong said. "You have to prepare them for that every game. You're a ranked team."
The Bulls (2-0) used an 18-play, 80-yard scoring drive to take their first lead of the game, 14-10. The drive took over five minutes off the clock and was capped by a 6-yard touchdown catch by senior wide receiver Marquez Valdez-Scantling. The Bulls never trailed again.
Senior quarterback and Heisman Trophy hopeful, Quinton Flowers was not sharp for the majority of the game. He finished 19-for-32 with 186 yards for two touchdowns and an interception, missing several open receivers.
"You get frustration when the run game's not going and throws are not being made. Then there were some dropped throws.” Strong said.
“He is such a competitor. Every time he walks out he expects to be perfect... When you have that competitive edge like he has, that's what happens to you."
Special teams were again an issue for USF. The Bulls had a punt blocked for the second straight week, this time for a touchdown and a 7-0 Seawolves lead in the first quarter.
USF would respond with a 73-yard, nine-play scoring drive of their own after senior running back Darius Tice rumbled in for a one-yard touchdown. Tice finished with 16 carries for 57 yards and two touchdowns.
After Scantling’s touchdown and an Emilio Nadelman field goal made the score 17-10, Seawolves senior running back Stacey Bedell busted a 54-yard touchdown run to tie the score early in the fourth quarter, sparking panic back into the 26,640 USF faithful in attendance.
“I don't think we're looking past the opponent,” said Strong. "You just gotta relax."
USF was finally able to overcome the pesky Seawolves when junior wide receiver Tyre McCants caught a 65-yard touchdown pass on the ensuing Bulls drive to make it 24-17. That touchdown was just one of two catches for 74 yards in the game for McCants.
“Momentum definitely switched on that play,” said McCants. “That’s a big factor in the game... so I think that brought a lot more energy and sparked a little bit extra in us. I read my read and Q threw the ball... That's all I could do for him, go get it. Fortunately I stayed on my feet and made a play."
The Bulls finally got some separation after Tice powered through for his second rushing touchdown, a 14-yard run with just under two minutes in the game to seal the 31-17 victory.
More of our initial thoughts and reactions about the win can be found here. USF will return to action on Saturday for their first American Conference game in Connecticut at 12 p.m.