When the clock struck triple zeros Saturday night, insanity ensued.
Fans tumbled over railings, taking the long plunge onto the Raymond James Stadium turf that was quickly swallowed up by the masses of USF faithfuls, chants of “U-S-F, U-S-F!” ringing through the cool, fall air.
Years of struggling pulled players, coaches, students and alumni alike to center field, where they united in celebration, as USF put an authoritative stamp on its turnaround season with a 44-23 rout of No. 21 Temple.
For the first time in five years, USF is bowl bound.
“It’s something you dream about,” receiver Rodney Adams said following USF’s first win over a ranked opponent at home since 2009.
The frenzy continued with players taking pictures with fans, families embracing their brothers and sons, and the magnitude of what transpired just minutes before finally sinking in.
“I couldn’t even begin to describe it,” said fifth-year senior center Brynjar Gudmundsson, who redshirted in 2010 when USF last went to a bowl game.
“Coming in here with all of these fellow seniors, we had a bowl game in mind from the moment we got here.”
It was a scene sophomore quarterback Quinton Flowers had witnessed before on television, but now he was in the center of it.
“It’s amazing,” Flowers said. “One highlight I had seen before and the students ran on the field and I just always envisioned doing it again, but doing it with myself in it. We did it today and that’s just fantastic.”
Flowers outplayed Temple’s standout quarterback P.J. Walker, throwing for 230 and two scores in the rout compared to 259, one score and one interception for Walker.
USF scored four touchdowns on four consecutive drives to end the first half, giving them a 31-10 lead that they refused to relinquish.
Sophomore tailback Marlon Mack notched his second 200-yard game of his career on a 48-yard dagger with just over two minutes remaining in the game. Mack finished the night with 272 yards of total offense and three touchdowns.
Mack tied the USF record for most 100-yard games in a single season (six) held by Andre Hall.
“I’m excited,” Mack said, smirking. “I may not look like it, but I’m excited.
“There were holes up the middle because they were blitzing on the outside. My O-line blocked it well and I just followed the hole.”
Junior receiver Rodney Adams also had a big night with seven catches for 147 yards — both career highs — and a 68-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7, with six seconds to go in the first quarter.
With his seventh receiving touchdown of the season, Adams matched Elgin Hicks and beat Andre Davis for most in a single season.
In the aftermath, Adams took a look around the field never thinking he’d be a part of such a monumental moment.
“Storming the field, you only dream about that,” Adams said. “You see other big schools do it on TV and a chance for us to do it, it was really big.”
The after-party rivaled that of a Super Bowl postgame. Once behind the closed doors of their locker room, the party never stopped.
“A lot of dancing,” Adams said, with a laugh. “Everyone was just happy for each other. It was a great scene.”
Most players said this is what they envisioned when they signed letters of intent to come to USF. All of the negativity and adversity they went through all culminated in what is arguably the biggest game of their young careers.
But they’re not done yet. With a chance at an AAC championship game appearance within its grasp, USF looks to close out the season with two more wins.
“Some people lost faith, but we stayed the course and the people that stuck with us, we brought them all with us, and this is the outcome,” Adams said. “We’re 6-4 and going bowling.
“That’s what we wanted."