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The Bulls won their final road game of the season last night, beating SMU 35 to 27 to improve the overall record to 9-2 (6-1) on the season. Quinton Flowers and the quick strike offense led the way for the Bulls while Deatrick Nichols and the defense made some critical stops late to preserve the victory.
Let’s start on offense. Quinton Flowers again did it both with his legs and his arm. Flowers ran the ball 16 times for 142 yards and was able to pick up some key third downs. Through the air, he hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 77 yard strike on the first play of the game. He would then find Tyre McCants for two more touchdown throws. Flowers finished the day 7 for 15 for 195 yards and the three touchdowns. SMU took away the short passes, forcing Flowers to go down the field and it paid off.
Marlon Mack had 18 rushes for 129 yards and a touchdown that came on a 60-yard run on a 4th down play. Remember, Mack missed the game last year, so it was fun to see him out there against SMU (D’Ernest Johnson also had a rushing touchdown). Overall, the Bulls totaled 473 yards of offense in this game with 278 of them coming on the ground. USF was just 2 for 12 on third down conversions, but the quick strike ability of the offense helped overcome that. However, that quick strike ability did mean the SMU offense would get the ball more often and they had 36 minutes of total possession in the game, putting a lot of stress on the USF defense.
Alright, let’s talk about the unit that gives us headaches, that defense. On paper, they gave up 578 yards total to SMU with 155 of them coming on the ground. The Mustangs aired it out with freshman quarterback Ben Hicks hitting some open targets down the field early in the game (combination of missed penalties and bad coverage on some of them) that allowed SMU to stay in this game. On paper, the unit was gashed and it was frustrating at times, but again, they stepped up on some splash plays.
One of the biggest splash plays came at the beginning of the third quarter. SMU had the ball to start the second half and was beginning to drive the ball again when Deatrick Nichols came up with a huge interception. On the next play, the Bulls would hit McCants for a 65-yard touchdown strike, padding the USF lead. It was a huge momentum changing play and it was the first of two interceptions for Nichols.
Nichols had 6 tackles overall and those two huge interceptions (had another one late that helped out). Auggie Sanchez had 14 tackles to lead all Bulls while Tajee Fullwood added 12 tackles with one tackle for loss. Khalid McGee had a great game with 9 tackles with two tackles for loss. Mike Love came up big as well with 5 tackles including 2.5 tackles for loss as the team posted 7 tackles for loss overall.
Look, SMU put up some big numbers on the defense, which was expected. The fast striking USF offense didn’t help too much either, but when they had to, the defense made some key stops. There are still a lot of issues and as a fan, its frustrating to watch the yardage numbers pile up every game, but I just care about the final score at the end of the day.
Alright, this one is in the books and now we all know who is coming to town on Saturday (game is a noon kick-off). Let’s enjoy this victory for at least a day before getting back to work and preparing for you know who.
by Matt Staton
SoFloBulls.com Columnist | @USFMatt
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