By the end of the game Saturday evening Northern Illinois likely could hear nothing but Drake's “Back To Back” playing the verse, "Oh man, oh man, not again" on repeat. The Huskies arrived in Tampa with high hopes, but the Marlon Mack-less Bull's ‘Gulf Coast’ offense goosed the throttle, reached plane, and stood on the throttle.
To start the game, versatile tailback D’Ernest Johnson broke off a 38-yard kick return. Unfortunately, the Bulls could not capitalize on the excellent field position due to Quinton Flowers’ less than stellar pass causing Darius Tice to drop a tailor made first down.
Northern Illinois took chunks of yardage to start their first drive, but Auggie Sanchez had other plans and broke through to sack NIU quarterback Drew Hare.
The sack ended in a five yard NIU loss and forced the Huskies to punt. The next series USF reached 3rd and 8, then Quinton Flowers stepped up and tossed a strike to Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a key 45-yard gain that got the Bulls’ offensive unit rolling.
Quinton Flowers dashed for 13 yards for a fresh set of downs, then Rodney Adams took a jet sweep 11 yards to put the Bulls on the board. The Bulls forced NIU to punt the following series, and a few plays later Flowers launched a 73-yard missile to Ryeshene Bronson for a touchdown.
The 73-yard passing touchdown was a new career long for Quinton Flowers, and marked the seventh USF scoring drive under two minutes in the five quarters of the 2016 season.
Quinton Flowers finished the first half with 221 passing yards, the junior’s sixth game with more than 200 passing yards and his first of 2016. There was an overwhelming notion of a momentum switch to the opposite sideline when the NIU pass rush forced the second USF three and out of the night.
But the Bulls’ defense had other plans, and Nigel Harris hawked Joel Bouagnon down to force an NIU Punt. Flowers found D’Ernest Johnson in the flats and Johnson punched it in to extend the USF lead to 34-7. Shortly after Johnson’s touchdown, NIU QB Drew Hare was wrapped up by Deadrin Senat, and Hare’s ankle was toast. Once Hare was carted off, the game was essentially a wrap.
Darius Tice rushed for 120 yards on 19 attempts for his first 100 yard game. D'Ernest Johnson split the workload at tailback, adding an additional 87 rushing yards on 16 attempts. Other notable numbers came from Rodney Adams with 28 rushing yards, a rushing touchdown, 66 receiving yards, and another touchdown.
Valdes-Scantling hauled in five passes for 72 yards, while Tyre McCants added 46 yards, and Chris Barr an additional 39 yards plus a touchdown.
While not perfect, the Bulls rolled offensively.
Oh, there were issues. There’s a theme from this evening as it relates to Flowers’ hitting deep shots and missing wrist flicks by a mile. Conversely, following an illegal formation penalty for five men in the backfield that cost USF five yards, Flowers stepped up tossed a dime while rolling to his left to Valdes-Scantling, but Valdes-Scantling dropped the would-be touchdown.
Then there was an atrocious pass from Flowers somewhat near his intended target Mitchell Wilcox that killed a potential scoring drive. Listen, every team has it’s problems, USF just needs to work out the kinks.
The Bulls posted 48 points in front of the largest student section in five years of 7,252, second only to Florida State in 2012. USF now has scored 104 points in the first two games of the season, a program record, passing the long-standing mark from 1998 versus Valparaiso and Slippery Rock.
USF’s 658 yards is just the second time in school history the Bulls exceeded 600 yards of offense in a game. The Bulls have won nine of 11 games dating back to last season, improving to 2-0 for the first time since 2012.
Willie Taggart commented on next week’s opponent stating, “Now we get to see if we can take this show on the road and do what we do at home," when USF aims to stay on track at Syracuse.
While there were errant throws, stupid penalties, and mental mistakes trickled in with shining moments, how can anyone in USF Country truly complain about remaining undefeated?