Strong defensive performance bails out Bulls


USF quarterback Quinton Flowers accounted for five touchdowns in the Bulls' 42-27 win over UConn on Saturday. ORACLE PHOTO/JACOB HOAG

A season best in sacks and yards allowed for USF’s defense helped the Bulls overcome four turnovers and an early 3rd quarter deficit to come back and defeat UConn 42-27 Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium.

With rain coming down intermediately throughout the majority of the first half, USF (6-1, 3-0) was unable to get into an offensive rhythm. 

Despite junior quarterback Quinton Flowers’ 54-yard touchdown run on the Bulls’ second play from scrimmage, USF led UConn 14-3 at the half.

The Bulls received the opening kickoff of the second half only for Flowers to throw the second of his two interceptions down the left sideline looking for junior running back Marlon Mack.

The Huskies (3-4, 1-3) would make quick work of the opportunity, scoring on an Arkeel Newsome 70-yard touchdown reception 1:19 into the second half to cut the deficit to 14-10.

Following the score, the Bulls would once again leave the door open for a UConn comeback. 

With senior receiver Rodney Adams fumbling on the first play of USF’s next drive on its own 26-yard line, the Huskies retook the lead 17-14 after a 4-yard Newsome touchdown run with 12:38 left in the 3rd quarter.

However, that would be as close as the Huskies would come, as the Bulls forced UConn to punt on back-to-back drives following those scores off turnovers.

In turn, USF would score touchdowns in four of their next five drives in response to the lead change. That push would help the Bulls pull away in the fourth quarter on their way to scoring at least 35 points in 11 straight games.

“It was good that our guys responded,” USF coach Willie Taggart said.

“(UConn) had the momentum. Sometimes it’s tough when another team gets momentum, especially like they did…but, it was great that our guys not flinch and regained the momentum two weeks in a row.”

In similar fashion, the Bulls had to hold off a late charge by East Carolina to win 38-22 last Saturday.

After giving up the lead early in the second half, it was USF’s defense that allowed the Bulls to keep UConn from continuing to build momentum with constant pressure from the Bulls’ defensive front.

USF’s defense was led once again by defensive captain and redshirt junior linebacker Auggie Sanchez. 

Sanchez, the team leader with 65 tackles, led the Bulls with 11 tackles on the night and three sacks of UConn redshirt junior quarterback Bryant Shirreffs.

“As a defense, we just had to attack,” Sanchez said.

“We just had the mindset that that’s what we wanted to do. I was just fortunate enough to get in there and have a decent game.”

Shirreffs, who led the AAC in rushing attempts by a quarterback coming in to Saturday night’s game (102), failed to gain positive yardage on 14 carries against the Bulls.

Flowers, who led all rushers with 157 yards on 16 carries, ran the ball in for three scores while adding on another two in the air. Flowers even led the way blocking downfield on Marlon Mack’s 34-yard scamper on USF’s final score.

The last time Flowers accounted for five Bulls touchdowns was last year in a 44-3 win over UCF in Orlando.

The Bulls look to take the momentum of a seventh-straight win over AAC opponents into Philadelphia, as USF travels to play Temple on Friday night.