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USF ends five-year bowl drought with 48-14 win over Charlotte

The Bulls’ five-win improvement from last year is the biggest turnaround in a single season in program history. ORACLE PHOTO/ARIANNA RENICK

After a drubbing last week against UTSA, Bulls coach Alex Golesh said his team wasn’t yet ready for high-pressure moments. That changed on Saturday.

USF (6-6, 4-4 AAC) football earned its first trip to the postseason in half a decade with a 48-14 victory over Charlotte. 

Related: Frank Harris, UTSA offense proves too much for USF in blowout loss

This crucial sixth win means USF is guaranteed entry in one of 43 bowl games, reserved for teams that finish .500 or above. 

South Florida closed a much-improved first season under Golesh with the largest margin of victory this season.

“Six wins is not the standard,” he said. “It never will be. But it’s a start – it’s a foundation being laid.” 

Redshirt freshman quarterback Byrum Brown had the offense rolling. He became the first USF quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards in a season.

Related: ‘We’re playing for something’: Bulls look to address inconsistencies to close out season

He completed 22 of his 30 pass attempts for 253 yards and four touchdowns, adding another rushing score. Brown finished his first season as a starter with 34 touchdowns – 23 through the air and 11 rushing. 

After building a two-score lead, the Bulls offense exploded in the second half. 

On the third play of the third quarter, Brown found junior wide receiver Jaden Alexis, who outran multiple 49ers defenders en route to the endzone.

Golesh said the team needed to “keep their foot on the gas.” This mentality manifested itself in an unconventional third-quarter decision – an onside kick while up 17 points. 

USF stunned Charlotte (3-9, 2-6 AAC) by recovering the kick. 

The Bulls marched down the field to score Brown’s fourth touchdown of the night, a 35-yard keeper.

Golesh said junior defensive back Aamaris Brown inspired this decision. Brown challenged him to “unload the clip” — or ramp up his aggressive playcalling. 

From there, South Florida padded its three-touchdown lead. Brown found junior wide receiver Naiem Simmons in the back of the endzone for his fifth touchdown of the day, bringing the score to 48-14. 

USF scored on six consecutive possessions in the second half, finding the endzone four times.

“As we got the tempo going, we got into [a] rhythm,” Golesh said.

Ultimately, the defense’s ability to get Charlotte off the field paved the way for the most efficient offensive showcase of the season.

Related: Takeaways: Defense spoils historic offensive output against Memphis

After scoring on their first possession of the game, the 49ers were held scoreless on their next seven drives.

Charlotte finished with only 298 offensive yards, along with three turnovers. 

Sophomore 49ers quarterback Trexler Ivey threw two interceptions. He was replaced in the third quarter by freshman Steven Johnson, who also threw an interception. 

Golesh inherited a program starved of wins and FBS success. He said he’s looking forward to spending more time refining his team. 

“[The bowl game] is certainly giving us an opportunity to continue practicing,” he said. “It’s giving us an opportunity to keep this team together and continue to build it.” 

He and his team enjoyed the fruits of their labors on Saturday before their Bowl matchup in December.

“We’ve worked as hard as you can work and we’ve got to continue to work to finish this thing off with another win,” he said. 

Bowl matchups will be determined on Dec. 3, after conference championship games are played.