Tampa Bay Sports Day

USF: Bulls Roll to 5-0 With 61-31 AAC Win at ECU

GREENVILLE, N.C. – Six different players scored touchdowns in USF’s most explosive game of the season, a 61-31 conference victory at East Carolina on Saturday afternoon that marked the Bulls’ most points ever in a road game.

“Just overall, I’m just very pleased with how we had a resilient group. Even when we were in a battle, and it’s always tough on the road, we were able to pull it out,” said USF coach Charlie Strong.

Ranked No. 18/17, USF (5-0, 2-0) rushed for a season-high 390 yards and totaled 575 total yards while extending the nation’s second-longest active win streak to 10 games.

Quinton Flowers passed Tim Tebow to become the state of Florida’s top career rushing FBS quarterback (2,989 yards) as the senior posted 93 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries. Flowers added two touchdown passes during his 253-yard day to help USF improve to 5-0 in AAC road openers.

“Whenever he gets going, with the way he runs the football, it opens up the whole offense… His throwing game, he took advantage of it. He was able to get Valdes a big catch there. When Quinton is going, then this offense is going to go,” Strong said of Flowers.

D’Ernest Johnson posted his third straight 100-yard rushing game with a game-high 111 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries in USF’s second-highest scoring game in American Athletic Conference play.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling totaled 75 of his 80 rushing yards on a scoring jet sweep and added another touchdown and 94 receiving yards on six catches.

USF’s defense brought their nation-leading interception total up to 14 with picks by Auggie Sanchez and Mazzi Wilkins. Sanchez ran a pick-6 in from 43 yards out and led the defense with 10 tackles. USF is tied with Utah State for the national lead of 16 takeaways.

“We just started playing. We didn’t do that the first half. We were back on our heels and they made a couple of throws. Then we just got settled down and just kind of limited what we were doing. When we limited what we were doing, they started playing and playing within themselves,” Strong said.

USF extended its 30-plus point streak to 22 games, one off the AP Poll era record, by halftime after a highly productive first quarter. Two rushing touchdowns and a pick-6 by the defense helped the Bulls bust out of the gates with a 21-10 lead.

Johnson set up USF’s first scoring drive with a 15-yard punt return past midfield and capped things off with a 1-yard touchdown run nearly four minutes into the action.

USF’s ground attack really heated up on the second drive with two dynamic runs by Flowers. The Heisman hopeful followed up a 44-yard run with a 16-yard score that helped him pass Tebow as the state of Florida’s top rushing FBS quarterback.

Leading, 14-10, USF’s defense got into the scoring act with its 13th interception. Sanchez returned his third-career pick 43 yards for a touchdown with 1:48 left in the first quarter.

Flowers’ 35-yard pass to Valdes-Scantling set up Emilio Nadelman’s 37-yard field goal that padded the lead to 24-10 early in the second quarter.

ECU (1-4, 1-1) cut the lead to 24-17, but Valdes-Scantling boosted the Bulls back to a 14-point lead with a career-long touchdown run of 75 yards on a jet sweep near the midpoint of the second quarter.

USF’s ability to attack the Pirates through the air kept the Bulls rolling in the third quarter.

USF marched 75 yards downfield on its opening drive of the second half that Flowers capped off with a 14-yard TD pass to McCants. Flowers’ hot hand continued with 4-yard touchdown pass to Valdes-Scantling to help stretch the Bulls’ lead to 45-31 with 1:51 left in the third quarter.

Nadelman nailed his ninth straight field goal from 28 yards out to pump the lead up 48-31 at the end of the third quarter. USF passed the 60-point mark for the first time since scoring 65 against Cincinnati on Nov. 20, 2015.

The Bulls’ defense finished the job by allowing just seven points in the second half.

USF returns to Raymond James Stadium to host Cincinnati on Saturday, Oct. 14.

BULLS NOTEBOOK: USF extended its program record with its 10th consecutive win, dating back to last season. It marks the nation’s second-longest active win streak, four wins behind Oklahoma….At 5-0, USF has matched the second-best start to a season in program history. The Bulls are one win away from matching the program’s best-ever start (6-0, 2007)….USF extended its nation-leading streak to 22 consecutive games with 30-plus points. It matches the second-longest streak in the AP Poll era (since 1936). The Bulls are on more away from the record set by Oregon (23 games, 2011-12). Oklahoma State (2010-12) and Hawaii (2006-07) posted 22 consecutive games with 30-plus points…USF leads the nation with 14 interceptions after getting picks from Auggie Sanchez and Mazzi Wilkins. The Bulls are tied for the national lead of 16 takeaways with Utah State….USF has won six straight AAC games (five straight AAC road openers) and six of its past seven AAC road games. The Bulls are 15-3 in conference games over the past three seasons.