Jacksonville Sports Day

USF: Bulls Open Strong Era With 42-22 Win at San Jose State

SAN JOSE – The No. 19/21-ranked USF football team stormed back from an early 16-point deficit with 42 unanswered points and started off the Charlie Strong era with a 42-22 victory at San Jose State on Saturday night.

“Once we got going, then we were able to put it all together. You can see it, we can explode on offense. We’ve got some guys that can really play and guys that can move the ball and get first downs for us,” Strong said.  “Then defensively, we were able to get the turnovers and on third down, we were able to get off the field and make plays.”

USF matched a program record with 28 points in the second quarter of the season opener and racked up 548 total yards of offense in new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert’s up-tempo attack. USF extended its nation-leading streak of 30-plus point games to 18.

Senior featured back D’Ernest Johnson highlighted USF’s 315-yard rushing night with 22 carries for 99 yards and two touchdowns.

“I had to press the hole a little bit. I didn’t see anything there, then I bounced it outside and the receivers gave me some great blocks. They did their job well and all I had to do was run from there,” Johnson said.

Senior Darius Tice added 94 rushing yards and a touchdown in his return to the lineup.

Heisman hopeful Quinton Flowers threw for 212 yards and two touchdowns on top of rushing for 70 yards, including a 1-yard score, in about three and a half quarters of work. With 31 career rushing touchdowns, Flowers is just one more sprint to the end zone away from Marlon Mack’s school record.

“Quinton is going to be a playmaker at some point. We knew on defense, we just had to keep playing and get the ball back for our offense. He’s going to make it happen. He can do so many things,” added Strong.

Senior Marquez Valdes-Scantling posted a team-high six catches for 91 yards, including a 50-yarder on a drive that extended USF’s consecutive point streak to 35.

Graduate transfer Temi Alaka caught a 49-yard touchdown pass from Flowers after sophomore Darnell Salomon (Miami) started the scoring with a 24-yard TD, the first of his career.

Sophomore linebacker Nico Sawtelle, senior safety Devin Abraham and junior cornerback Mazzi Wilkins all intercepted passes for USF’s defense that also forced a turnover on downs, seven three-and-outs and 11 punts.

USF’s special teams units stepped up with extra-point attempt blocks by senior Bruce Hector (Tampa) and freshman Kelvin Pinkney.

SJSU jumped out to a 16-0 lead with a pair of touchdown passes by new starting quarterback Josh Love.

The second quarter was a much different story.

USF’s defense forced two takeaways and the Bulls seized the lead with 28 unanswered points before halftime. USF racked up 271 yards during the game-changing period and headed into the break with 174 rushing yards.

Fittingly, Flowers got the scoring flurry started with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Salomon.

USF’s offense got the ball right back thanks to an interception by Sawtelle at the Bulls’ 31-yard line. Twelve plays and four minutes later, Johnson followed his blockers into the end zone for a touchdown with USF facing a fourth-and-goal at the 2. It marked the 10th rushing TD in Johnson’s career and his 21st score overall as a Bull.

USF’s defense kept the momentum swinging in the Bulls’ favor on SJSU’s ensuing drive with an interception by Abraham off a tipped pass by Mike Hampton (Tampa). Three plays later, Flowers gave the Bulls their first lead with a 49-yard touchdown pass to Alaka with 7:13 to play before halftime.

USF made it 35 unanswered points with a 1-yard touchdown run by Tice midway through the third quarter. Flowers powered the drive with a 50-yard pass to Valdes-Scantling that took the Bulls down to the SJSU 16.

Wilkins’ interception helped the Bulls’ defense pitch a shutout in the third quarter before USF’s offense rushed for its third touchdown of the day. Flowers’ 1-yard score with 9:57 remaining helped put the finishing touches on USF’s sixth straight win, dating back to last season.

USF opens its home slate with a test against Stony Brook on Saturday, Sept. 2 at 4 p.m. The first 5,000 fans through the gates at Raymond James Stadium will receive free USF rain ponchos.

BULLS NOTEBOOK:  USF improved to 16-5 in season openers in programs history. The Bulls have won four straight season openers and six straight games, dating back to last season. USF extended its nation-leading streak of 30-plus point games to 18.

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