Leading by just seven at halftime, and seemingly losing momentum in a back-and-forth shootout, the #18 USF Bulls outscored East Carolina 30-7 in the second half to cruise to a 61-31 win on Saturday afternoon in Greenville, North Carolina.
“We came back out in the second half and only gave up one touchdown,” USF head coach Charlie Strong said. “This is a very resilient group that played well on the road. For us to come in here and not play great but get the win is great.”
USF senior quarterback Quinton Flowers returned to form on Saturday, completing 10 of 18 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns. He added 93 yards on the ground for another score, becoming the state of Florida’s all-time leading rushing quarterback.
“When our quarterback goes, the whole team goes,” Strong added. “He had those two big runs early, which opened up the draw game.”
Some of that run game opening up included a 75-yard jet sweep touchdown run by Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the second quarter to give USF (5-0, 2-0 American East) a 31-17 lead.
Scantling finished with 174 yards total, 94 receiving and 80 rushing with two touchdowns. He ended up being an unexpected piece of the Bulls multi-headed rushing attack that piled up 390 yards.
“We had great blocks on the perimeter, and I did the rest,” Scantling said of his touchdown run. “Coach Strong wants the best out of me, just like I challenge myself. When your head coach believes in you... I feel like that’s pushed me and is driving me to next level.”
Defensively, a week after allowing their fewest total yards to any FBS team in a win over Temple, USF struggled the entire first half against East Carolina. Although USF never trailed in the game, they allowed two fourth-and-goal touchdown conversions, including one as time expired in the second quarter.
The highlight of the game for the USF defense was senior linebacker Auggie Sanchez returning an interception 43 yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter, pushing USF’s lead to 21-10.
“I was actually just expecting to make the tackle... it was a screen,” Sanchez said. “I saw the receiver bobble the ball and I took it with a lot of green grass in front of me.”
Cornerback Mazzi Walkins added an interception in the fourth quarter, giving the Bulls’ defense 14 total on the season, the most in the country.
The 61 points scored was the most ever in a road game for USF, smashing the previous record of 49 against Memphis last year. It was only the third time the Bulls hit the 60-point mark against an FBS team. And with 31 points on the board at the 9:37 mark of the second quarter, the Bulls also extended their nation-leading streak of scoring 30 or more points to 22 straight games, just one short of the all-time record in the AP poll era (since 1936).
USF improves to 5-0 for the first time since 2009, and now head into a bye week before returning to action in two weeks against Cincinnati at Raymond James Stadium. More of our immediate reactions, musings and thoughts about the ECU win can be found here and also here.