South Florida Bulls Win Ugly Home Opener
On a gray day, loaded with rain in the first half and a pregame lightning delay, the 19th ranked South Florida Bulls needed to pull out some big play magic in order to defeat the Stony Brook Seawolves 31-17 and improve to 2-0.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. This was supposed to be the dynamic home debut of new South Florida head coach Charlie Strong. It ended being a hard-fought game full of offensive miscues and missed opportunities.
The Bulls again struggled early on. Outside of the scrambling ability of Quinton Flowers, the Bulls running game was flat with the wet field making the passing game less effective. The Seawolves were able to keep the bigger and faster Bulls on their heels by running a no huddle offense. South Florida’s defense eventually slowed down the Seawolves enough, but a blocked punt in the end zone added to the Bull’s first quarter woes this season. The Bulls did manage to score in the first quarter though after Flowers had a shifty 14-yard scramble on a third down conversion. Coupled with a defensive holding penalty, the Bulls were able to capitalize 4 plays later to tie the score at 7.
The weather played a factor during the entire first half as both teams struggled to find any consistency. Flowers had many of his passes go over his targets and multiple interception opportunities slipped through the Bulls defenders’ hands. The Seawolves were able to add a field goal late in the second quarter to head into halftime with a 10-7 lead. The Bulls fans showed their displeasure and showered their team with boos as the team went into the locker room.
As the rains stopped and the field started to dry, the Bulls offense started to find moments of rhythm, utilizing the improvisation running by Flowers and key punt returning by Tajee Fullwood to turn the table and take a 17-10 lead into the 4th quarter. Big plays started pouring in the 4th quarter. A big 54-yard touchdown run by Stony Brook’s Stacey Bedell evened the game at 17 early in the quarter. South Florida responded with a 65-yard touchdown pass from Flowers to Tyre McCants to retake the lead 24-17. Flowers was able to do just enough to keep the Seawolves defense on the field and wear them down and Darius Tice added a 14-yard running touchdown to close out the game.
Flowers finished 19/32 for 186 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception while running 18 times for 67. Tice finished with 16 carries for 57 yards and 2 touchdowns. For Stony Brook, Joe Carbone went 17/34 for 137 yards and 2 interceptions, including the one that sealed the win for the Bulls. Stacey Bedell ran it 10 times for 71 yards and a touchdown.
Looking at the college football schedule, South Florida is listed as playing twice in what is being called week 1. The first game was a 42-22 win over San Jose State, which was the first appearance for Charlie Strong as the Bulls’ new head coach. Strong took over for Willie Taggart, who was hired to take over at Oregon after guiding the Bulls to their most successful season in their program’s young 20-year history. In South Florida’s short history, they’ve won many games, including bowl games, and even reached #2 in the rankings in 2007, but the Bulls have yet to win an elusive conference championship. The Bulls fell short last year, but expectations are high this year as many analysts have picked South Florida to win the American Athletic Conference championship.
South Florida travels to Connecticut for their first AAC conference game next Saturday. The game is at 12 pm on ESPN News. Stony Brook plays at Rhode Island to open their conference schedule in CAA Football at 1 pm on Collegesportslive.com.