In their first visit to the Carrier Dome in five years, the Bulls were able to overcome an early first quarter deficit to defeat the Syracuse Orange 45-20 on Saturday afternoon to move to 3-0 for the first time since 2011.
Syracuse (1-2), coming off the heels of a 62-28 loss to ACC foe No. 6 Louisville last week, came out as the early aggressor. The Orange scored on all three of their first quarter possessions against USF (3-0), who had not previously surrendered a first quarter touchdown this season.
Syracuse sophomore quarterback Eric Dungey was able to lead the Orange’s up-tempo offense with two touchdown passes to wide receivers Ervin Phillips and Brisly Estime to open the scoring for Syracuse.
Limiting the Bulls’ “Gulf Coast” offense to only 12 plays in the game’s opening quarter, the Orange were able to tack on a field goal in the final minute of the first to extend their lead to 17-0, by far the largest deficit the Bulls have faced so far this season.
Coming off a career game, USF junior quarterback Quinton Flowers struggled initially against the Orange. Flowers started the game arrantly, only completing two passes in the first quarter.
With the Bulls’ facing early adversity, USF turned to returning junior running back Marlon Mack for an offensive spark. After sitting out of last week’s win over Northern Illinois (concussion), the Doak Walker Award candidate was targeted on USF’s first three plays from scrimmag.
The Bulls’ finished the quarter on a 40-yard scamper from Mack, finishing the drive less than a minute into the second quarter on a 27-yard catch and run by senior receiver Rodney Adams.
Adams, who leads the Bulls in receptions this season (12), finished the day with 4 catches, 67 yards, and three touchdowns (two rushing).
From there, the green light was on for USF.
Including that Adams touchdown, the Bulls would go on to outscore the Orange 45-3 in the game’s final three quarters.
The Bulls went on on to score touchdowns on three of their next four drives of the first half, with all three scoring drives taking up only 4:04 on the clock.
USF’s “Bullsharks” would put their stamp on their game, forcing one of their three turnovers on the afternoon on Syracuse’s final possession of the half to send the Bulls into the locker room with a 28-17 lead.
Following a Syracuse field goal that cut the lead to 28-20 five minutes into the third quarter, USF would respond emphatically with a 52-yard touchdown run for Mack.
The Bulls would close the door for good following the Orange’s next possession, as running back D’Ernest Johnson returned a Syracuse punt 83 yards for a score.
Johnson, who has become the Bulls’ ‘jack of all trades’, even attempted a long pass early in the first quarter on an apparent trick play.
The return was the Bulls’ first taken back for a touchdown since Rodney Adams 97-yard return against Navy last season.
USF would add on a 42-yard field goal from junior Emilio Nadelman, his longest of the season. Nadelman is a perfect 3 for 3 on field goal attempts this year.
The Bulls look to take the momentum of their first road win of the season back home to Tampa, as they host yet another ACC opponent in No. 2 Florida State next Saturday at noon.