If the USF football team raised any questions with its play in a 56-20 win against Towson in Week 1, they were answered emphatically Saturday night in the Bulls’ 48-17 win over Northern Illinois University at Raymond James Stadium.
In what would be a historic night for USF’s offense, the Bulls gained 658 yards of offense behind quarterback Quinton Flowers’ four-touchdown performance.
The Bulls have recorded over 600 yards of offense only once before, when USF ran all over Florida A&M University for 745 yards in 2011.
As the NIU offense struggled with the swarming “Bull Shark” defense, Flowers and USF’s offense scored early and often, opening up a 27-0 lead half way into the second quarter.
“He was the same Quinton Flowers he was last week,” coach Willie Taggart said. “I thought he was a little calmer than he was last week. The kid is always ready to play, he’s always ready to go out and compete and find a way to win. It was great to see him have the game he had and he was able to distribute the ball around to a lot of different people and not just one guy and that was impressive.”
USF struck first with an 11-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep by Rodney Adams and on the very next drive, Flowers uncorked a heave down the left sideline, finding receiver Ryeshene Bronson for a 73-yard touchdown. The score was the longest completion of Flowers’ career.
Four different receivers hauled in touchdowns from Flowers, who ended the night with 350 yards on 21-of-33 passing.
“It’s the same as in practice, you gotta find your guys,” Flowers said. “Taking shots when you’re supposed to. They we’re playing a lot of ‘off’, I was giving the guys a lot of check downs, and using my legs when I needed.”
Even with starting running back Marlon Mack out for the game, the Bulls’ offense didn’t miss a beat. Senior Darius Tice started in Mack’s place and ran for 120 yards and a score on 19 carries, with backup D’Ernest Johnson adding on 87 yards on 16 carries of his own.
“I was hyped coming into this game, but Marlon Mack did a good job talking to us as well,” Tice said. “We’re like a brotherhood, so we all went up and talked and he told us what he saw…he got me actually pumped up even more because to hear that from him, it was like ‘I got you’, and I just fed off of that.”
The Bulls’ defense refused to give in to the Huskies for most of the game, keeping them off the scoreboard until NIU receiver Aregero Turner ran in a 4-yard sweep to the left end zone with 1:36 left in the first half.
After surrendering 20 points to Towson of the FCS in the Bulls’ opening game, USF’s defense was locked in Saturday night. After the NIU’s second-quarter score, the Huskies wouldn’t come within striking distance again until the game was out of reach in the fourth quarter.
“I thought those guys played outstanding,” Taggart said. “I’m disappointed in the points we gave up there late, but it goes back to those penalties. A lot of those drives kept going because of penalties and we have to be better, we have to be smarter. But overall, I thought the defense played an outstanding game against a good football team.”
Aside from the Huskies’ score near the end of the first half, NIU had trouble sustaining drives, let alone finding its way back to the end zone.
NIU managed only one score in the first three-plus quarters of action, as Huskies quarterback Drew Hare was kept in check until he was carted off the field with an apparent leg injury mid-way through the third quarter. Hare finished 13-of-20 for 96 yards and no touchdowns.
The Bulls will follow up their dominant win over the Huskies with a trip up to Syracuse, New York to play the Orange next Saturday.
“It going to be a tough challenge for us going up there, it’s a tough place to play,” Taggart said. “I know they’ll be fired up to try and get back in the winning column and our guys have to be ready. It’s another part of the process of what we’re trying to build here and where we’re trying to go.
“Going on the road is another part of that process and now we have to see if we can take this show on the road and do what we’re doing at home.”