Tampa Bay Sports Day

USF: Bulls Become Bowl Eligible With 42-27 Win Over UConn

Photo by Stamford Advocate

TAMPA –  Show-stopping performances on both sides of the ball helped USF become bowl eligible for the second straight season and match the program’s best-ever start in a 42-27 win over UConn at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday night.

“It’s never been our goal just to become bowl eligible. It’s great to be bowl eligible. That means we’re winning some ballgames this time of year. But we’re after something much bigger than just bowl eligibility. It’s great to be 6-1,” said head coach Willie Taggart.

USF (6-1, 3-0) extended all three of its nation-leading offensive streaks, scoring 35-plus points for the 11th consecutive game.

Taggart’s Gulf Coast Offense racked up 529 yards of offense, increasing the program’s streak of 440-plus yard games to 11. Against the 11th-ranked rushing defense in the country, USF gained a season-best 316 yards on the ground, extending the Bulls’ 200-plus yard streak to 12 games. USF has now rushed for 300-plus yards in consecutive games.

Quarterback Quinton Flowers tied his career high with five total touchdowns after rushing for a game-high 157 yards and three scores. The junior from Miami completed 23 of 37 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns, as he accounted for 370 total yards on the night, many in video-game highlight fashion.

USF made program history with two 100-yard rushers in consecutive games. Marlon Mack  passed the 3,000-yard career rushing mark with 107 yards on 16 carries, his third-straight 100-yard game. Mack now owns USF’s career rushing touchdown record (26) with a 34-yard scoring run that helped pump the lead up to 42-20 late in the fourth quarter.

USF tied the program record for the best start to a season and became bowl eligible in the second-earliest time span in school history. The Bulls extended another program record with their seventh consecutive conference victory.

The Bulls’ defense played a big role by holding UConn (3-4, 1-3) to just 72 yards rushing and came up with five sacks and nine tackles for loss with an aggressive blitzing scheme.

Linebacker Auggie Sanchez set a new career high with three sacks and finished with a game-high 11 tackles. USF collected nine tackles for loss, as safety Jaymon Thomas had a career-high 2.0 tackles for loss to go along with a career-best seven total tackles.

USF built a 14-3 lead by the end of the first half that included the Bulls’ play of the year so far on offense.

Flowers showed some fancy footwork weaving through the UConn defense on the way to a 54-yard touchdown run that helped USF grab a 7-3 advantage with 7:35 left in the first quarter.

“He’s one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in this country if you ask me. Some of the things he does out there is like playing a videogame,” added  Taggart about Flowers

Flowers found the end zone again on an 8-yard run that capped off the first-half scoring with 2:22 to go before the break. USF rushed for 146 yards in the opening half against UConn’s defense that came in allowing an average of 98.8 yards per game.

USF’s defense held UConn to 126 total yards in the opening half, while the Huskies went just 1-for-9 on third down. USF racked up six tackles for loss and Sanchez already reached a new career high with two sacks.

UConn opened the third quarter with 14 straight points before USF regained the lead with Flowers’ third touchdown run of the game. The Davey O’Brien Award candidate tied his career rushing TD high with another 8-yard scoring run that helped put USF ahead, 21-17, with 5:30 remaining in the third quarter.

USF lengthened its lead to 28-17 less than three minutes into the fourth quarter with its first touchdown pass of the game. Flowers found Marquez Valdes-Scantling wide open in the end zone for a 26-yard scoring strike.

USF put the game out of reach with Flowers’ second touchdown pass of the game with 4:21 remaining. Tight end Mitchell Wilcox wrestled the ball away from a defender in the end zone for a 29-yard score that helped pad the lead to 35-20.

Mack capped off USF’s scoring while moving up to 17th place on the state of Florida’s all-time rushing list with 3,014 yards.

Mack now has 3,014 career rushing yards, extending his USF program record. He now stands 17th on the all-time career rushing list for Football Bowl Subdivision players in the state of Florida. Saturday night, he passed four players on the list, including former Florida QB Tim Tebow (2,947) and Miami RB Edgerrin James (2,960).

USF travels to Philadelphia to take on Temple on Friday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. USF’s third road game of the season will be televised nationally on ESPN.

GAME NOTES: USF (6-1) has equaled the best start in program history. The Bulls also were 6-1 in 2007 and 2008. They are bowl eligible at the second-earliest juncture in program history. The earliest was Oct. 13, 2007, when the Bulls moved to 6-0…..USF won its program-record seventh straight conference game, a streak dating to the 2015 season, and its ninth straight game against American Athletic Conference East Division opponents….Flowers tied his career high by accounting for five touchdowns in one game (UCF, 2015)…..Flowers had his fifth career 100-yard rushing game, tying him with RB Dyral McMillan (1998-99) for fifth place on USF’s all-time list.