USF battered the Cincinnati Bearcats 45-20 in their conference opener as the South Florida ‘Bull Shark’ defense swarmed the field and attacked the ball like a Great White jumps on a frightened seal during Shark Week.
It took some time for the defense to pressure Cincinnati’s redshirt freshman quarterback Ross Trail, but after three consecutive drives that ended in turnovers, Bearcats’ head coach Tommy Tuberville thought that the young signal caller had had enough.
The Bulls bounced back from their week four loss against Florida State and managed to deflate the confidence of the team that was picked to come in behind them in the AAC East.
This was easily the defense’s best showing of the season, holding the Cincinnati offense to 20 points and turned the ball over four times on the night including a pick-six by senior defensive back Johnny Ward.
This game was reminiscent of Cincinnati’s conference opener against sixth ranked Houston, when the Bearcats turned the ball over three times. The only difference between then and now, is that the nation leading Bearcats defense was able to even the difference with three of their own turnovers.
Tonight they couldn’t even get one.
Junior quarterback Quinton Flowers was effective through the air, completing 16-of-26 passes for 196 yards. Flowers wasn’t able to get the ball to his receivers in the end zone, but he was able to run for two touchdowns himself; in fact every offensive touchdown came on the ground.
While no one in the Bulls’ receiving corps was able to haul in a touchdown or connect on a deep pass, Flowers appeared to make a conscious effort to look for the middle of the field; completing passes in the short and medium fields; something that plagued him against FSU.
Marlon Mack made USF football history, becoming the program’s all-time leading career rusher with 2,755 yards on the ground, surpassing the previous record of 2,731. On his way to creating Bulls’ history, Mack picked up his 15th career 100-yard game after busting through the Bearcats’ defense for 118 yards on 20 attempts and two touchdowns. Mack’s game was highlighted by a 49-yard dash that juked one Bearcats defender to the ground.
Not enough credit will be given to USF sophomore punter Jonathan Hernandez, who punted the ball six times on the night; three of which were within the Bearcats’ 20-yard line and two of those were downed on the two yard line.
Those punts were critical in keeping the Cincinnati defense pinned down in the shadow of their own end zone, leading to three consecutive turnovers and 14 points for USF.
Next week the Bulls will be back in Tampa for their Homecoming matchup against the East Carolina Pirates. Last season the Bulls beat the Pirates 22-17 while visiting ECU. Next week’s game will kick-off at 12:00 p.m. and will be airing on ESPNews.