USF has lost its past two games by a combined 41 points and is looking to not only get back on track with a win against SMU, but also start a three-game winning streak that would qualify the Bulls for a bowl game.
“Coach (Willie Taggart) put it as a three-game playoff,” senior receiver Andre Davis said. “First game of the playoffs is beating SMU and that’s how we’re looking at it.”
But beating a winless SMU (0-8, 0-4) team may not be as easy as the record suggests.
The Mustangs have replaced former starting quarterback Garrett Krstich with sophomore Matt Davis. In his first start Saturday against Tulsa, the sophomore threw for 212 yards and ran for 181 more, leading the Mustangs to a season-high 28 points in the loss.
USF redshirt freshman Auggie Sanchez said despite the lack of wins, the Mustangs can’t be taken lightly because of their new quarterback.
“That kid is a dual-threat quarterback,” Sanchez said. “He can run, he can pass and he definitely adds another dimension to the game that you have to defend. From a defensive standpoint, it does make it harder to defend.”
But the struggling Mustangs aren’t the only team to turn to a young, versatile quarterback to give the team a spark.
Taggart announced Monday that freshman Quinton Flowers will start against SMU. Andre Davis said he is excited about Flowers’ potential and what he can add to the offense.
“He’s definitely a great quarterback – he’s electric,” Davis said. “He can make plays with his feet and has a strong arm. He’s everything you look for in a football player.”
Davis said he has been staying late to ensure that he is getting in work with all of the quarterbacks because he doesn’t know who will be starting any given Saturday, so he’s already comfortable playing with Flowers.
“These past five or six weeks, I’ve been having all the quarterbacks after practice and just throwing with them,” Davis said. “We’ve been going through go routes, deep balls, everything, just in case because from week to week, we don’t know who’s going to be there.”
In previous weeks, Taggart said Flowers wasn’t ready for more snaps because of his inexperience with the playbook, but Sanchez said he thinks Flowers has gotten a firm grasp of the offense.
“You can just see his growth throughout this season,” Sanchez said. “He’s more comfortable in our offense, he’s quiet, he’s shy, but he also has this swagger about himself. He’s confident and he always thinks he can get the job done.”
SMU is ranked last in the NCAA for total defense and its offense ranks 123rd out of 125 schools. But despite the Mustangs’ statistical shortcomings, the Bulls are wary.
With a new quarterback and playing the Bulls during primetime for their homecoming game, the Mustangs will be playing with nothing to lose.
“Records don’t mean anything right now,” Sanchez said. “They just put that new quarterback in, so they’re definitely feeling like his next game he’ll have more confidence and get the job done. And they’re looking at us as a W, so you can’t take them lightly at all.”
USF (3-6, 2-3) will play SMU at 8 p.m. at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.