After an offseason of mass changes to the coaching staff and its schemes, South Florida (1-0) finally got the opportunity to take to field and put all of their preparation in motion, trouncing Florida A&M (0-1) 51-3 in front of 30,434 fans at Raymond James Stadium. The margin of victory is the largest in the Willie Taggart era to date.
Winning the off season QB battle over senior Steven Bench, sophomore Quinton Flowers showed glimpses of what he could do in managing Taggart’s brand new up tempo offense. Coming out of the gate sloppily in the first quarter, Flowers started to settle down and effectively developed a rhythm in the spread attack, showing his ability to extend/keep plays alive while showing his passing ability. Being taken out of the game in the middle of the third quarter, Flowers would finish 12 of 16 for 147 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception through the air while racking up 63 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Afterwards, Flowers commented “We’re definitely ready to win. We’re tired of losing.”
Indicative of the depth of USF’s skill position were the three headed running back committee of Marlon Mack, Darius Tice, and D’Ernest Johnson, each recording at least one touchdown. For the second year in a row, Mack impressed in a season debut, racking up 131 yards on 23 carries in the start of what looks to be another promising season. Darius Tice back-ended the run game in the second half, racking up 77 yards on eight attempt and a touchdown himself. But it was the sophomore Johnson who showed his versatility through his catching ability during the game. Johnson recorded 67 receiving yards on two catches, both of them resulting in touchdowns off the aforementioned play extending ability of Quinton Flowers.
Other offensive notables throughout the day included QB Steven Bench and TE Elkanah Dillon. Playing mop up duty, Bench put on full display his ability to run the new offense, going eight of ten for 140 yards through the air, while racking up twenty yards and a touchdown on the ground. The freshman Dillon burst onto the scene and showed his ability as a target for years to come, leading all Bulls receivers with 126 yards on four receptions and a touchdown.
While it took the offense two quarters to sync and get into rhythm, Tom Allen’s new 4-2-5 “Bull Sharks” were staunch throughout the entire contest, shutting the Rattlers out of the end zone, yielding only 182 yards, and showing what is to be expected from the unit for the entire season. The Bulls defense forced Florida A&M into six straight three and outs and applied pressure to Rattler QB’s Carson Royal and Kenne Coleman the entire night. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Auggie Sanchez, who led the team with ten tackles on the contest, commented USF’s dominance during the opener. “It’s good that we win that way. We want to play to a level where it’s consistent throughout the year.” Also emerging was redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Bruce Hector. Hector got into the backfield early and often, grabbing six tackles and two sacks during the victory.
South Florida will bask in the glow of victory for only a few days before seriously focusing on their next task, as the Bulls will be paying a visit to another Tallahassee opponent, this time in the form of powerhouse #10 Florida State.