Rob Bridenstine

The South Florida Bulls go 9-2 after beating Southern Methodist 35-27 with their big play ability

The Bulls rely on their big play ability to outlast SMU and USF’s defense shows some signs of life with three turnovers and two sacks.

USF tied its best season win total ever after picking up a 35-27 victory on the road in Dallas against Southern Methodist on Saturday. The Bulls hindered the hopes that SMU may have had about making it to a bowl game, putting the Mustangs in a position that will require them to beat a tough opponent in Navy.

The Bulls’ ability to strike on the big play shined, as USF had three different scoring drives that consisted of one play and each exceeded 20 yards. In what can only be considered a pedestrian night by the USF offense, quarterback Quinton Flowers ran for 142 yards; completing seven of 15 passing attempts for 195 yards, three touchdowns and his first interception since week seven. With the numbers, Flowers was averaging just under 28 yards per pass and threw for a touchdown on every third completion.

The Bulls shot out of the gate aggressively when Flowers connected with junior wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 77-yard touchdown pass for the first play of the game. Two other big touchdown passes from Flowers to sophomore wide receiver Tyre McCants wraps up the Bulls’ aerial attack on the night.

On the ground, both Flowers and junior running back Marlon Mack ran for over 100 yards, totaling 271 yards and a touchdown on 34 rushing attempts between the two of them. Junior running back D’Ernest Johnson also scampered into the end zone for his sixth rushing touchdown of the season.

By the numbers, the Bulls’ defense had yet another atrocious game where they gave up nearly 600 total yards, but from the eye test, the unit played better. Junior cornerback Deatrick Nichols intercepted the ball twice on the night, making it the second consecutive week that the cornerback came through in the crucial moments of the game.

Unfortunately, the Bulls secondary was burned for 423 yards and three touchdowns on 26 completions. Half of those completions were to SMU’s sophomore wide receiver Courtland Sutton for 252 yards and two touchdowns. Before Saturday’s game, Sutton had accumulated 934 receiving yards; tonight’s totals are more than enough to push him past the 1,000 yard receiving mark for the first time in his career.

The Bulls also recovered a fumble after Khalid McGee stripped the ball from SMU running back Braeden West, giving Ronnie Hoggins the opportunity to turn the ball over in the Bulls’ favor.

Flowers needed just 208 yards to break former USF quarterback Matt Grothe’s season total offense record of 3,542 yards. Flowers shattered that program record after accumulating that 337 total yards against SMU. Flowers also matched his own USF record 22 passing touchdowns while also breaking his own total touchdown record of 34, by one. Flowers is currently tied for the season high rushing touchdowns record that is held by former USF running back Andre Hall, with 13 touchdowns. The Bulls’ quarterback is also on track to produce an average of 333.5 yards per game, more than Tim Tebow, Cam Newton or Jameis Winston during their respective Heisman Trophy winning seasons.

Next week will be the final game of the regular season, when the Bulls host rival UCF for the “War on I-4” at Raymond James Stadium.

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