South Florida’s 55-35 loss to the Florida State Seminoles appeared as if it was going to be a shootout with both teams coming out of the gates firing on all cylinders, each scoring on their first respective drives of the game. A couple series of quick strike attacks the score was tied at 14 in the first 5 minutes of the game; from that point forward it was the Dalvin Cook show. The junior running back silenced any mention of his less than stellar performance up to this point by totaling 267 rushing yards; breaking his own career record of 266 yards in a single game— also against USF.
Cook’s first possession was a 75-yard touchdown run, foreshadowing how the rest of the game would go for the Bulls. The ‘Bull Shark’ defense surrendered 185 yards on nine plays in the first quarter to just the junior back alone. Cook amassed over 300 all-purpose yards as he looked to replicate his career day against the Bulls last year.
Coming into this game, the South Florida defense had relinquished a total of only 483 yards on the ground in in the first three games, nearly doubling it against the Seminoles who ran over the Bulls defense by pounding the ball for 478 yards. A mixture of poor tackling and an inability to defend against the FSU’s planned offensive scheme ultimately doomed the Bulls.
“I’m very disappointed in our defense. When you give up half a thousand yards of offense, I’m very disappointed in our defense,” said USF head coach Willie Taggart during his post-game press conference. “In a million years I didn’t think our guys would play that way. I thought we’d play better; I thought we’d defend Cook better than we did and we didn’t.”
USF’s quick strike offense floundered after the team’s first two drives of the game, with six consecutive 3-and-out drives, either resulting in a punt or a touchdown. Junior quarterback Quinton Flowers completed only five of his 14 passing attempt for 160 yards, including the game’s opening score, an 84-yard touchdown strike to senior wide receiver Rodney Adams.
Flowers was able to extend the play with his legs, rushing for 159 yards on 18 attempts, putting the Bulls’ in the red zone a few times, but it was too little too late. Two-time 1,000 yard running back Marlon Mack made little impact in the game, rushing for only 48 yards and scoring one of the Bull’s two early touchdowns. Mack was sidelined after 12 attempts after being poked in the eye; D’Ernest Johnson filled in for the injured Mack —fellow running back Darius Tice also left the game early with a broken ankle— picking up 82 yards on 8 attempts and scoring 3 late touchdowns in the second half.