Ever since Marlon Mack’s electric 275-yard, four-touchdown debut for USF against Western Carolina in 2014, it has been apparent coach Willie Taggart has a unique athlete on his hands.
Saturday against Cincinnati (3-2, 0-1), with his parents in the stands, Mack cemented his place in Bulls’ history as the program’s all-time rushing leader.
With a side step and a burst of speed, Mack scored a 49-yard touchdown run for USF’s final score in its 45-20 win over the Bearcats at Nippert Stadium.
“That was a pretty impressive run,” Taggart said. “He used the L1 button on that one, you know PlayStation. He hit the L1 button and made the guy miss and took it to the house. I loved the fact how he did it, how he got the record.
“I’m really proud of Marlon and what he’s done and how he can add on to that. He’s been special for us from day one and he deserves everything he’s getting.”
Mack’s 118 yards on 20 carries Saturday gave him 2,755 career yards in two-plus seasons at USF, moving him past former record holder Andre Hall by 24 yards.
“It feels great, it’s a great feeling,” Mack said. “Thanks to my O-line the last few years, for blocking for me, doing a good job and letting me do what I do.”
Heading into halftime, USF (4-1, 1-0) was locked in a back-and-forth contest, leading the Bearcats 24-20.
Powered by Mack’s two touchdowns and the defense’s three second-half turnovers, the Bulls quickly pulled away from Cincinnati with 28 unanswered points.
“That was good for our guys after a loss (to Florida State) to bounce back and not let that loss phase (them) and not let that loss make them lose another one this week,” Taggart said.
Along with Mack, quarterback Quinton Flowers paced USF’s explosive offense with 196 passing yards, 74 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.
After throwing for 160 yards and two interceptions on 5-for-14 passing in Week 4 against FSU, Flowers credited his improved performance to the birth of his daughter, who was born Sept. 26.
“Ever since my daughter came into my life, I just feel like everything’s changed,” Flowers said. “I have to treat football just like it’s my daughter. I have a lot of responsibilities; I have a lot of things I have to do for this team. I just went out there every play and played every play like it’s my last.”
The dual-rushing attack of Flowers and Mack, which combined for 192 rushing yards and four touchdowns Saturday, have transformed the Bulls’ offense from a team that averaged 17.2 points per game in 2014 to one that’s erupted for at least 45 points in four of its first five games in 2016.
“Just like I always say, we’ve got guys who will turn five yards into 60 just like Marlon Mack,” Flowers said. “He had a draw play and made someone miss and he was gone in the blink of an eye.
“Just knowing you have a lot of guys like that will change the game.”
With a conference win under its belt, USF returns home for its homecoming game against East Carolina on Saturday at noon.