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Despite setbacks and cramps, USF stayed on track to top Towson, but did the victory cost the Bulls a key contributor?
From the time Towson won the coin toss and deferred to USF the Bulls offense did not miss a beat, well maybe a few. The first play from scrimmage running back Marlon Mack gashed the Tiger’s defense for a 19 yard gain. Four plays later quarterback Quinton Flowers flipped a short pass to Darius Tice, who streaked 43 yards for the score.
The next USF offensive series kicked off right where the Bulls left off, but unfortunately came to a screeching halt when Quinton Flowers was intercepted after badly under throwing a post route intended for Rodney Adams.
The USF defense picked up the slack, stymieing the Tiger’s offense via outstanding plays from Nigel Harris and Jaymon Thomas. The Bulls’ defense held strong, limiting the Tigers to a three points from the turnover. Rodney Adams took the ensuing kick return 57 yards down to the Towson 35 yard line, adding a needed spark to begin the Bulls’ third offensive series.
Flowers slung a 28 yard pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, followed by Marlon Mack dicing for seven yards untouched for Mack’s first touchdown of 2016. Unfortunately the celebration was short lived, Towson quarterback Morgan Mahalak hit receiver Christian Summers for a 42 yard completion after Summers toasted Lamar Robbins in coverage.
The next play Darius Victor punched in a one yard touchdown. Robbins asininely proceeded to get flagged for illegal use of hands to the face on the field goal, adding insult to injury.
With 6:56 remaining in the second quarter Quinton Flowers launched a dart to Marquez Vales-Scantling for a 51 yard throw-and-catch touchdown. The following series USF linebacker Nigel Harris intercepted Morgan Mahalak, and took the ball down to the Towson 5. Quinton Flowers’ five yard rushing touchdown was the final scoring play of first half.
The first half started off red hot for the Bulls, but as Quinton Flowers began to deal with accuracy issues the USF offense began to sputter. At the break, USF led Towson 28-10 after out gaining the Tigers 255 yards to a meager 147 yards. The USF defense bottled up Towson tailback Darius Victor, limiting Victor to just 19 rushing yards on 12 carries (1.6 yds./car.) and a touchdown.
Linebacker Nigel Harris finished the first half with four tackles, a sack, and 1.5 tackles-for-loss, while strong safety Jaymon Thomas collected five tackles and 1.0 tackles-for-loss. The USF defense in the first half, less the blown coverage by Robbins, held up decently strong with Devin Abraham and Bruce Hector contributing key plays as well.
To open the second half USF utilized three jet sweeps of 17 yards, 17 yards, and four yards to Rodney Adams, culminating in the Bulls’ fifth touchdown. USF averaged a gaudy 12.6 yards per jet sweep during the 11 play, 79 yard series. The Tigers did not shy away from the adversity, driving the rock 39 yards on six plays, capped by Darius Victor’s second trip to the endzone.
The Marlon Mack-less offense returned to the field with Quinton Flowers hitting tight end Kano Dillon for a 27 yard gain down to the Towson 23 yard line. Two plays later Towson Head Coach Rob Ambrose was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, allowing Quinton Flowers to scramble and score from seven yards out. USF began to wear the Tigers defense down, allowing Quinton Flowers to amass 46 rushing yards on nine carries and two scores. The Bulls held a comfy 42-17 lead with a little more than two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
To make matters worse for the visiting FCS Tigers, Nate Godwin forced a Mahalak fumble during the subsequent series. USF wasted zero time, quarterback Brett Kean tossed his first collegiate pass to D’Ernest Johnson for Kean’s first collegiate touchdown. The Bulls’ third touchdown of the third quarter pushed USF’s lead to 32 points, and the ball game out of reach. Kean went on to earn his second collegiate touchdown, hitting tight end Mitchell Wilcox in the fourth quarter.
In the end, the Bulls were rocky on both sides of the ball. Quinton Flowers had a seedy overall start to 2016, completing just 44% of his passes and finishing the evening with 178 passing yards and two touchdowns. Injured running back Marlon Mack finished the contest with 58 yards on eight touches and a touchdown before leaving the game.
USF’s receiving corps production was limited with Rodney Adams finishing with a modest 20 receiving yards, but Adams did add four rushes for 37 yards and a touchdown. In his USF debut, Marquez Vales-Scantling shined with three receptions for 79 yards (26.3 yds./rec.) and appeared as advertised adding the highlight of the night with his 51 yard touchdown reception in the second quarter.
Marlon Mack’s status was unknown at the end of the game and was obviously a major concern for the Bulls ‘Gulf Coast’ offense. When Coach Taggart was asked about Marlon Mack’s status during the post-game press conference he smirked then replied, “We heal differently around here.” Then Taggart elaborated further mentioning that when he [Taggart] asked Mack if he was okay in the locker room Mack responded, “I feel good Coach.” So for now USF fans can exhale a hurricane Hermine sized gust of relief.
Overall, the Bulls have a lot of cleanup work to do on both side of the ball before the Huskies arrive at Raymond James next week. Ronnie Hoggins, D’Ernest Johnson, Tyre McCants, and Devin Abraham amongst others were hampered by cramps during the sticky, densely humid evening in Tampa. Regardless, USF won big as the Bulls were expected to, remaining undefeated and staying on track to hit the lofty 2016 expectations.
by Matthew Manuri
SoFloBulls.com Editor | @Mcknurkle
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