Rob Bridenstine

South Florida defends their throne in the “War on I-4”

The Bulls kept UCF in check during the “War on I-4,” never giving up their lead and putting the game out of reach in the fourth quarter. Quinton Flowers and Marlon Mack lead the way for the offense and the Bulls’ defense hopes that three times truly is a trend after they were able to be difference makers for the third consecutive time.

The USF Bulls stayed true to themselves, running the quick strike ‘Gulf Coast’ offense that has helped make them one of the nation’s most potent scoring units. With over 350 of the Bulls’ 503 total offensive yards coming on the ground, the Bulls gashed the Knights for 48 points during the recently revamped “War on I-4” rivalry.

USF’s defense has had its issues this season, but in this game, and the previous two, the Bull Shark defense was on display. The Bulls were able to adapt after UCF scored on the opening drive in less than two minutes; giving up only 64 rushing yards on 35 attempts. The defense continue its trend of turning the ball over, hitting their goal of three per game. Senior safety Nate Godwin got his second pick of the season, while junior linebacker Auggie Sanchez pulled down his first of the year, late in the game.

“I think the last three games we’ve gotten better defensively,” said Sanchez after the game on Saturday. “That was a good pick, it kind of changed the momentum. UCF has a good team and their coach had them ready to play. It was a back-and-forth ball game, the big play swung the momentum and that was good for us.”

With the USF stepping up their play over the past three games, the pressure has come off the offense to score on every drive. That doesn’t mean that offense has slowed down though. Both Flowers and junior running back Marlon Mack each ran the ball 20 times for 150 yards (152 and 155 respectively) and two touchdowns a piece.

With the Bulls having as much success as they did on the ground, Flowers only threw the ball 26 times, completing 17 of his attempts for 152 yards. Senior wide receiver Rodney Adams led the Bulls’ receiving attack, picking up 78 yards on nine receptions.

The Bulls’ offensive line was able to keep UCF’s standout linebacker Shaquem Griffin in check, not letting him add on to his conference high sack total and only giving up two tackles-for-loss. In total, the UCF defense was able to only pick up two sacks and five tackles-for-loss, as they attempted to apply pressure on Flowers.

For the Bulls it was more than just a rivalry game though; celebrating Senior Day at Raymond James Stadium, USF honored 18 seniors including, Kofi Amichia, Nigel Harris, Adams and Godwin, on the field before the game. These were head coach Willie Taggart’s first crop of recruits that ended their freshman season with a 2-10 record, but finished their senior season with a program record 10-2 season.

“I’m really excited for our seniors to finish their last regular season game in Ray Jay with a victory,” said Taggart during the postgame interview. “For these guys to end their season with a 10-2 record is pretty darn big time around here; considering the fact that their first year here, they started 2-10 here. They worked hard and have been through a lot of adversities. Those guys could have easily transferred or went somewhere else, but those guys decided to stay here and see it through and now they’re reaping the benefit from it.”

With no game set  for next weekend, USF is on its way an eighth bowl appearance, and as of the writing of this article, is still hoping for their first ever attempt at a conference championship.

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