Jacksonville Sports Day

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: USF Rolls To 8-4 Record With Rout Of UCF, 44-3

ORLANDO, FLA. – USF scored 44 or more points for the third straight game and stayed in the East Division title hunt in emphatic fashion by demolishing rival UCF, 44-3, at Bright House Networks Stadium on Thursday night.

USF (8-4, 6-2) posted its first eight-win season since 2010 and will play for its first conference championship if UConn defeats first-place Temple on Saturday night. The American Athletic Conference title game will take place Saturday, Dec. 5 at Navy or Houston.

The Bulls set a new school record with six conference victories by scoring 44 unanswered points. USF finished the regular season with four consecutive wins, its longest win streak since 2011, and seven victories in the final eight games, its best eight-game stretch since 2002.

“We came out with a business attitude. All week we’ve been focusing on us,” senior left guard Thor Jozwiak said. “We didn’t worry about what they were going to do. It’s about what the Bulls do and that’s something we’ve instilled this entire season.”

Quinton Flowers broke the program’s single-season touchdown pass record with three TD tosses to bring his total up to 21. Flowers also rushed for two touchdowns to match USF’s single-season quarterback record of 10 scores set by Matt Grothe in 2007.

Flowers finished 14-of-21 for 176 yards and now owns the USF record for total touchdowns accounted for in a season with 31 (21 pass, 10 rush). Two of Flowers’ touchdown passes went to senior tight end Sean Price, who finished the regular season with consecutive multiple touchdown games.
USF outgained UCF, 455-203, in total yards and diced the Knights’ defense with 281 rushing yards. Marlon Mack registered his school record eighth 100-yard rushing game this season with 102 yards on 18 carries. Mack moved up to second on USF’s all-time rushing list with 2,314 yards.

“Our guys did a good job of maintaining those blocks on the perimeter,” Taggart said. “It allowed us to get outside sometimes and Quinton made some plays with his feet to extend some drives.”

Tom Allen’s “Bull Sharks” defense dominated with two takeaways while UCF went just 2-for-12 on third down.  With a team-high eight stops, Auggie Sanchez became the 10th USF player to register 100 tackles in a season and the first Bull to accomplish the feat since Kion Wilson in 2009. His 106 tackles on the year are tied with Kawika Mitchell (2001) for the sixth-best season total at USF.

“They come out with a workman mentality and they make sure that they’re competing day-in and day-out,” said Taggart of his defense.

UCF grabbed a 3-0 lead on the opening drive of the game, but the Bulls ended up owning the first quarter and led, 24-3, at halftime.

USF marched 75 yards to the end zone on its first drive that was capped off by Flowers’ 4-yard touchdown pass to Chris Barr on a receiver screen play. The Bulls scored one play after converting on fourth-and-8 with D’Ernest Johnson’s 28-yard reception up the middle.

USF outgained UCF, 112-63, in the first quarter that included two three-and-outs by the Knights.

The Bulls extended their lead to 14-3 on the opening drive of the second quarter. Flowers matched the single-season program TD pass record by finding Price from 1 yard out with 12:07 to go before halftime. The first Bull to throw 20 touchdown passes in a season was Marquel Blackwell back in 2001.

The “Bull Sharks” put USF’s potent “Gulf Coast Offense” in position for another score when Devin Abraham stepped in front of Justin Holman’s pass and returned his third-career interception 12 yards to the UCF 49.

Flowers helped pump USF’s lead up to 21-3 with a touchdown run from 3 yards out with 4:42 remaining in the first half. Johnson kept the drive going with a 13-yard run on a third-and-12 and Mack got the Bulls near the goal line with a 27-yard run on a sweep to the UCF 2.

USF snuck in one more score before halftime after the Knights failed to convert on fourth down from the Bulls’ 28 thanks to pressure by defensive end Eric Lee. USF went 49 yards downfield on three plays and Nadelman nailed a 44-yard field goal as time expired.

The Bulls got back to business after the break and Flowers’ 5-yard touchdown run on the opening drive helped extend the lead to 31-3. It marked Flowers’ 10th rushing touchdown of the season, which tied the sophomore for fourth place on USF’s single-season list with Grothe (2007).

Flowers called the program’s single-season touchdown pass record all his own by connecting on a 26-yard scoring strike with Price with 3:50 remaining in the third quarter. Price ended the regular season with consecutive multiple touchdown games after hauling in two touchdown passes in last week’s 65-27 rout of Cincinnati.

Nadelman’s 41-yard field goal extended the USF lead to 41-3 in the fourth quarter following the second interception of Ronnie Hoggins’ career. The Bulls’ 15 interceptions are the third-highest single-season total in school history.

Nadelman continued his hot streak by capping off the scoring with a 43-yard field goal with 4:58 remaining. The sophomore has made nine consecutive field goals, five from 40-plus yards out, which is the third-longest streak in USF history.

Now the Bulls turn their attention to the UConn-Temple game that’s set for Saturday at 7 p.m. (TV: ESPNU). Whether it’s the conference championship game or a bowl game experience, the Bulls promise they’ll be ready to put the finishing touches on a season to remember.

The Bulls made things extra special by ensuring UCF (0-12, 0-8) of its second winless season in 11 years.

“That’s big-time for us seniors to go out like that and I appreciate every single person on our team this year. It’s my favorite team that I’ve played with,” Jozwiak said. “Everyone is still hungry and still working. It’s a great experience.”

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