Tampa Bay Sports Day

USF: Bulls Shatter Records in 52-45 Win Over Navy

TAMPA –– Powered by a 42-point, 464-yard explosion in the first half, USF improved to 7-2 for the third time in program history and first since 2002 with a 52-45 victory over No. 22 Navy on Friday night.

“It was a great win for our football team. I’m really excited with the way our guys responded after last week. They came out and really executed very well offensively,” said USF head coach Willie Taggart.

At 4-1 in The American, USF kept its share of first place in the East Division on a record-breaking night at Raymond James Stadium. The Bulls set new top program marks with 412 rushing yards, three 100-yard rushers, 190 rushing yards in the first quarter and 279 rushing yards by halftime.

USF set a new school single-season record with 32 rushing touchdown with five scores on the ground on Salute to Service night. The Bulls racked up four TD runs while finding the end zone on each of their first six drives of the game and seized the momentum by jumping out to a 28-0 lead in the opening quarter.

Quarterback Quinton Flowers (Miami) rushed for 176 yards and two touchdowns on top of throwing for 219 yards and two scores. Marlon Mack (Sarasota) rushed for 125 yards and his performance included a career long 85-yard touchdown run. D’Ernest Johnson (Immokalee) ran for a career-high 107 yards with two touchdowns as fellow Immokalee, Fla., native Edgerrin James looked on from the USF sideline.

“The only thing that was going through my mind was every time we get the ball, just score. That’s what we did today,” Flowers said.

The Gulf Coast Offense got Ray Jay rocking in a hurry by opening the game with six consecutive touchdown drives capped off by five different players.

USF jumped out to the lead it was looking for just over a minute in. Flowers posted the second-longest run of his career with a 63-yard sprint to the end zone on the Bulls’ fourth play from scrimmage.

USF halted Navy’s opening drive with a fourth-down tackle for loss by senior linebacker Nigel Harris at the Midshipmen’s 47-yard line. Seven plays later, Johnson extended the lead with a 23-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter. Johnson is one 10 USF players to register at least 10 touchdowns in a season.

“This whole week during practice coach said, ‘You’ve got to make sure every drive counts. We’ve got to execute every drive.’ We took that into consideration,” Johnson said.

USF needed just 13 seconds to get back into the end zone on its third drive, when Mack set a new career high with an 85-yard touchdown run on the Bulls’ first play. Mack’s explosive play marked the second-longest TD run in USF history, behind only Rafael Williams’ 86-yarder against Valparaiso in 1998.

USF took a 28-0 lead thanks to tight end Elkanah Dillon’s 41-yard touchdown catch with 3:10 remaining in the first quarter.

Flowers’ 1-yard touchdown run helped the Bulls pump their lead up to 35-7 with 10:43 to go before halftime. Flowers has 10 rushing touchdowns this season, three away from the season record set by Andre Hall in 2005.

The Bulls rolled into the break with a 42-14 lead after Marquez Valdes-Scantling hauled in a 16-yard touchdown pass with 1:52 left in the second quarter. The junior from St. Petersburg extended his touchdown catch streak to three games.

Navy cut the USF lead to 45-27 in the fourth quarter before the Bulls passed the 600-yard mark with another score. Johnson set a new career high in rushing yards with his 16-yard scoring run with 9:22 to play. The 1 minute, 15 second sequence marked USF’s 31st touchdown drive in two minutes or less this season.

Defensively, senior safety Nate Godwin (Tampa) posted a team-high nine tackles. Team-leading tackler Auggie Sanchez (St. Petersburg) finished with eight stops, while cornerback Ronnie Hoggins (Coconut Creek) registered his second interception of the season.

“Whenever you’re playing a team like Navy, you want them to play from behind. I think our game plan worked out pretty well for ourselves. We got up early, made them play from behind and it helped,” Taggart added.

After a bye week, USF returns to action at Memphis on Saturday, Nov. 12. Game time has yet to be announced.