Time of Possession: TEM- 32:16 USF- 27:44
Time of Game: 3 Hours, 50 minutes
Announced Attendance: 28,393
Random Factoids from game: Entire stadium “Swag Surfed” at beginning of 4th quarter. Students rushed the field after the game. Glazer Family probably not too happy about that. Taggart on field storm and students: “It shows you it’s been a long time coming. It shows you they appreciate what you’re doing. Our student section was outstanding. When our student section is like that, it gives us so much energy. To be honest, I think it gives us a touchdown advantage on anyone we play.
Notable USF Stats/Outcomes:
-South Florida is bowl eligible for first time since 2010 where they defeated Clemson in Meineke Car Care Bowl.
-Bulls need combination of winning out and one more Temple loss to clinch East division.
-Quinton Flowers: 15/22, 230 yards, 2 TDs. 90 yards rushing, 1 TD.
-Rodney Adams: 7 rec, 147 yards, 1 TD. Ties Andre Davis and Elgin Hicks’ school record for most receiving touchdowns in a single season at 7.
-Marlon Mack: 21 carries, 230 yards, 2 TDs. 3 receptions, 42 yards, 1 TD. Now leads AAC with 1,065 yards on the season. Sixth 100+ yard rushing game ties single season school record. Surpassed B.J. Daniels for fourth all-time on USF’s rushing list. (2,106)
-Bull Shark Defense: 7 TFLs, 7 pass break-ups, 2 sacks, 1 INT throughout game. 12th in the nation in TFL.
-Eric Lee: 4 tackles, 2 TDL, 1 sack, 1 pass break-up
-Auggie Sanchez: 6 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 pass break-up. Continues to lead team with 87 tackles.
-Jamie Byrd: 9 tackles
-Emilio Nadelman: 3/3 FGs. New career high.
-Mattias Ciabatti: Became USF’s all-time leader in punting yardage at 8,161 yards.
Notable Temple Stats/Outcomes:
-Loss drops Owls out of Top 25.
-556 yards and 44 points the most Temple’s defense has given up all season.
-TEM QB P.J. Walker: 20/48, 259 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.
-TEM RB Jahad Thomas: 16 carries, 65 yards, 1 TD. Eclipsed 1,000 yards for the year. Surpassed by Marlon Mack for AAC rushing lead.
-TEM WR Ventell Bryant: 5 receptions, 86 yards, 1 TD.
-Owl defense had 10 TFLs, 2 pass break-ups and 2 forced fumbles throughout the game.
-TEM LB Tyler Matakevich: 9 tackles, 1.5 TFLs
As the final clock turned to zeros and the students jumped the railing to rush the field and greet their beloved players, an aura of jubilation overcame Raymond James Stadium. USF’s 44-23 upset of then #22 Temple signified that after five long, frustrating years, South Florida will be bowl bound for the first time since the Meineke Car Care Bowl in 2010. The Dark Ages of USF football are over. The Bulls are back.
Coach Willie Taggart, who some believed was on the hot seat just over a month ago after dropping a 24-17 home contest to Memphis, expressed during his postgame press conference that this is what he had envisioned for the program since he first stepped foot in Tampa. “My goal from the beginning since I came here was to win multiple championships for this program in a first class manner. We’re not there yet, but we’re climbing. They say climbing is easier than hanging on. Our guys are climbing in the right direction and this is what we want. This is what we thought it could be here and it’s only the beginning.”
Doing their best Pac-12 offense impersonation, the Bulls quickly ripped an early lead from Temple, onslaughted the Owls with points in the second quarter, and never looked back. A one yard Jahad Thomas touchdown run put the Owls up 7-0 with 26 seconds remaining in the first quarter, which was their only lead of the game. On the first play of the next possession for USF, Quinton Flowers immediately connected with Rodney Adams on a 68-yard play action bomb that tied the game up at 7 heading into the second quarter. The first play of the ensuing Temple drive saw Deatrick Nichols leaping up to pick off a P.J. Walker slant pass. This turnover set up a Quinton Flowers five yard TD run on the very next play that sent the USF student section into a frenzy.
From there, the Bulls took complete control offensively. After an Austin Jones FG brought Temple back to within three, the Quinton Flowers-Marlon Mack show took off. The ensuing two drives for USF featured Mack, who now leads the AAC in rushing, speeding up the middle for a fifty-seven yard touchdown run and Flowers connecting with Mack down the sidelines for a twenty yard touchdown pass. An Emilio Nadelman FG with fifteen seconds in the half put the Bulls up 31-10 and the game out of reach by halftime.
Winners of five of their last six games with a great shot at winning their division, the Bulls have peaked at the most vital time. After the game, Mack discussed the winning mentality instilled by coach Taggart. “Coach T. always tells us to think of yourselves as winners and that’s what we’re doing. We’re coming out executing and every game we learn. We just keep learning and that’s a good thing for us.”
No one on this current USF roster has experienced the feeling of not only going to a bowl game, but finishing with a winning record in general. Quinton Flowers, who has emerged as a bonafied team leader, discussed the significance of this milestone afterwards. “Every week I’ve been telling these seniors, those guys that have been here longer than me. Those guys have never had a bowl game. That’s something I stressed to them and that’s something I kind of promised them. That’s why every week I go out and fight and keep fighting. Even if we’re down, even if we’re about to lose, I’m going to keep fighting until the end, because I told these guys, ‘Before you leave, let’s get you a bowl ring.’ Because I know if I was a senior, I would want it.”
With the emotional upset of Temple now behind them, there is still a lot in play for the Bulls as they wrap up the season. They must quickly refocus and avoid a letdown as visiting Cincinnati will come to Raymond James on Friday for the final home game of the regular season.