Well, that was fun. The Bulls, 6-4 (4-2), won 44 to 23 to beat the 22nd ranked Temple Owls to get the program to bowl eligibility for the first time in nearly 1000 years (estimated). This was a huge win for not only this team, but for the program itself.
Let’s talk offense for the Bulls. It got started in the first quarter on a 68-yard strike to Rodney Adams to tie the game. After that, the USF run game got going with runs from Quinton Flowers and Marlon Mack. Both players were healthy and both got it done for this team with big runs and on explosive plays. In the second half, it was the run game of Mack and field goals from Emilio Nadelman that kept the Bulls ahead for the game. The Bulls finished the night with 556 yards of offense with 326 of them coming on the ground. Big throws by Flowers and the running of Mack carried the day for this team.
Flowers was 15 for 22 for 230 yards, 2 touchdowns (no interception) and had 18 carries for 90 yards and a score. He continues to get better passing and now he is healthy to run all over people. The big story was Marlon Mack who had 21 carries for 230 yards and 2 touchdown (3 receptions for 42 yards and score) as he moved into 5th all time rushing and went over 2000 yards in his career. Mack is something special to watch. Catching the ball, Rodney Adams tied Elgin Hicks for most touchdown grabs in a season at 7 as he caught 7 passes for 147 yards and a score. Marlon Pope, Chris Barr and others had solo receptions, but the night belonged to Flowers and Mack. If the Bulls were going to win they needed big games from their stars and they came through in the clutch.
What a game from the Bulls. On several drives from the Owls, the Bulls were able to stand up to force field goal attempts to stop a very talented Temple offense. A big play came in that second quarter on the interception that turned into a touchdown for the Bulls. That was a big momentum play in the game that turned things around for USF before halftime. Time after time, the Owls would drive only to be held to field goals or forced to punt late in the game. They held Temple to just 380 total yards and 121 yards on the ground as PJ Walker and Jahad Thomas failed to get going for most of the game. Jaime Byrd led the way with 9 tackles. Deatrick Nichols had 5 tackles with 1 interception as he continues to stand out in the secondary (PI call on him early in the game was BS). Auggie Sanchez had 6 tackles and Eric Lee had 4 tackles with a sack in the game. Overall, they did an incredible job in this game, holding down a top scoring offense and giving the ball back to the offense, allowing them to continue to strike and add to the scoreboard.
Mattias Ciabatti had 3 punts, averaging 37.7 yards per kick. But the big story was the kicking game for two reasons. One was Emilio Nadelman who was 3 for 3 including a 47-yard field goal as he kept his job and showed he has the leg talent. I was impressed with him after wondering if they should change the last few weeks. The bigger issue was on kickoffs as Michael Hill struggled to get the ball down the field and big returns, with no thanks to the coverage teams, hurt the defense with starting field position on several occasions. While it didn’t hurt the Bulls in this game, it is something to be concerned about heading into these last two games of the year. But for now, we should still be celebrating after this game.
So what a night last night. We beat a ranked team for the first time since 2011, became bowl eligible, stormed the field, and finally had a big reason to smile at Raymond James. We should enjoy the win, but there is still work to do. USF returns to the field on Friday night to face Cincinnati on senior night. We can enjoy the victory a bit, but the team is already preparing for the next one.