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Bulls Blitz Cincinnati, 65-27, On Senior Night


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DATE: NOV. 20, 2015




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Bulls Blitz Cincinnati, 65-27, On Senior Night

USF scores 27 first quarter points on way to conference game scoring record

Season highs of 561 yards of offense and 361 rushing yards overwhelm UC

TAMPA, FLA., NOV. 20, 2015 – Powered by a program-best 51 first-half points, USF posted its highest scoring total against an FBS opponent in school history, blowing out Cincinnati, 65-27, at Raymond James Stadium on Senior Night.

“We came out in attack mode from the beginning and our guys didn’t let up,” head coach Willie Taggart said.

USF (7-4, 5-2) stands alone in second place in The American East Division, one game behind Temple, after scoring its most points ever in a conference game and totaling a season-high six takeaways. The Owls (8-2, 5-1) host Memphis on Saturday, and a victory by the Tigers would make for an exciting final week of the regular season. USF would have the tie-breaker with Temple if the Bulls beat UCF on Thanksgiving night.

“Anything that’s going to help the USF Bulls, I’m a fan of right now,” Taggart said with a smile.

The Bulls remained in the conference title race after totaling 561 yards of offense and winning for the sixth time in the past seven games. It marks the program’s best stretch after the start of October since winning seven straight to close out the 2002 season as an independent.

The Bulls racked up a season-high 361 rushing yards and set a new single-season rushing record with 2,640 yards on the ground. Marlon Mack broke the USF record with his seventh 100-yard rushing game of the season, finishing with 106 yards and two touchdowns on only 11 carries. Darius Ticeadded a career-best 94 yards and 15 carries and D’Ernest Johnson finished with 71 rushing yards on 11 attempts, while adding 181 yards on four on kickoff returns (45.2 ypr).

Quinton Flowers threw touchdown passes on each of his first three attempts and had a career-high four in the first half before taking most of the second half off. The sophomore from Miami now has 18 touchdown passes this season and needs two more to match the program record set by Marquel Blackwell in 2001. Sean Price shined on his Senior Night with a career-high two touchdown catches in the first half to help the Bulls go 5-1 at home, equaling the program's top home record in the past 13 years.

Deatrick Nichols set a new career high with two interceptions and returned his first 29 yards for a touchdown that helped spot a 34-0 lead in the second quarter. Jamie Byrdstepped on his Senior Night with a fumble recovery and an interception that were a part of USF’s five-takeaway first half.

“(Seniors) are the ones that helped keep the team together this year,” Taggart said. “… To come out here and see so many seniors step up and make plays in that game was even that much more gratifying.”

The Bulls bombarded the Bearcats (6-5, 3-4) with 34 unanswered points to start the game on the way to setting the program’s new scoring record for a half. USF racked up 388 yards of offense (235 rushing) and scored on eight of its first nine drives, including the first four possessions of the game.

The Bulls’ dream first half included seven touchdowns, including two scoring catches from Price, two TD runs from Mack and pick-6 by Nichols.

USF needed just 15 seconds and one play on offense to grab the lead in its 13th meeting with Cincinnati. Flowers fooled the Bearcats with a pump fake and found a wide-openRodney Adams for a 67-yard touchdown connection. Adams now owns the USF single-season record with eight touchdown catches.

“Whenever you score on the first play it’s big,” Taggart said. “You automatically get Uncle Mo on your side, and whenever you get him on our side you’ve got a chance.”

Tom Allen’s “Bull Sharks” defense came up with the game’s second huge play less than two minutes into the action. Eric Lee forced a fumble while sacking Gunner Kiel and Byrd recovered it at the Cincinnati 10-yard line.

Three plays later, Price’s 6-yard touchdown reception helped extend the USF lead to 13-0 with 12:17 remaining in the opening quarter.

Byrd hauled in his second takeaway during Cincinnati’s second drive when he intercepted a Kiel pass and returned it to the USF 23. Byrd has five since since interceptions his debut as a Bull in 2014.

Mack got USF back into the red zone with a 48-yard run and Jordan’s Reed’s first-career TD catch from 1 yard out helped extend the lead to 20-0 with 7:52 left in the first quarter. Flowers topped his previous career high with three touchdown passes in his first three attempts of the game.

Mack was well on his way to his seventh 100-yard game of the season after his 28-yard touchdown run helped pump the lead up to 27-0 with 3:56 remaining in the first quarter. USF fell one point shy of tying another program record with 27 points in the opening quarter.

Devin Abraham came up with USF’s third takeaway of the opening quarter when he intercepted another errant Kiel pass and returned it to the Bulls’ 45 with a minute remaining.

Hayden Moore replaced Kiel in the second quarter and didn’t fare any better. Nichols stepped in front of Moore’s first pass of the game and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown with 13:48 to go before halftime.

After five failed drives, Andrew Gantz’s 44-yard field goal got the Bearcats on the scoreboard with 9:17 left in the second quarter.

USF responded just 19 seconds after Gantz’s field goal with Price’s second touchdown catch of the game, this time from 46 yards out. Johnson gave the Bulls great field position with a career-long 54-yard kickoff return and finished with a career-high 181 kick return yards.

Mack scored his second touchdown run of the half from 10 yards with 2:38 remaining. USF followed with its fifth takeaway of the game when Lee recovered a fumble on a sack byBruce Hector with 1:11 to play.

Emilio Nadelman capped off USF’s record-breaking half with a career-long 49-yard field goal as time expired. The Bulls’ previous record of 49 points in a half was set in 2011 against Florida A&M.

“Our guys knew what we were capable of doing from the beginning,” Taggart said.

Cincinnati scored 17 consecutive points to start the second half, but the Bulls kept the comeback out of reach. Senior quarterbackSteven Bench’s 14-yard touchdown run helped put USF ahead, 58-20, with 2:33 left in the third quarter. Bench threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Legree on fourth-and-goal with 6:57 to play.

The Bulls now turn their attention to a road test at rival UCF on Thursday, Nov. 26 at 7:30 p.m. The American championship game will take place Saturday, Dec. 5 at a destination to be determined.

“We have to beat UCF and I’m sure this football team will be highly motivated for that game,” Taggart said.

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