Saturday’s home opener for the USF Bulls got off to an eerily similar start to last week. The Bulls had a punt blocked and recovered for a touchdown and trailed FCS foe, Stony Brook, 10-7 at halftime. The Bulls finally took their first lead of the game with just over 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. The Seawolves wouldn’t go quietly into the night though. Stacey Bedell exploded for a 54-yard touchdown run early in the 4th quarter, but South Florida’s best player answered. Quinton Flowers connected with Tyre McCants on a 65-yard touchdown pass and that would be enough. Stony Brook got the ball back with a chance to tie it up with less around 3 minutes remaining, but a Mazzi Wilkins interception would effectively seal the game and end the upset bid. Darius Tice’s 2nd touchdown run of the game would end the scoring and give USF the 31-17 victory.
Quinton Flowers looked like he might have had an early season Heisman moment in the 1st quarter. Flowers looked like he was tackled in the backfield on 4th down, but it appeared as if he might have never been down and rolled over the defender. The USF quarterback would scamper into the endzone, but after review he was ruled down and the Bulls turned the ball over on downs. Stony Brook drove into USF territory on the ensuing drive. The Seawolves couldn’t score, but they put USF in horrible field position at their own 10 yard line. Stony Brook forced the Bulls to go 3 and out and then made a huge special teams play. Jonathan Hernandez had his punt blocked and recovered in the endzone to give the Seawolves an early 7-0 lead. USF answered right back. They went 73-yards on 9 plays and Darius Tice capped it off with a 1-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7.
The teams traded punts for the 1st half of the 2nd quarter. Stony Brook being able to flip field position once again was a big factory. The Seawolves pinned the Bulls at their own 2-yard line and forced a punt to get their offense the ball back in good field position. A 17 yard run by Joe Carbone was the biggest play of the drive and Alex Lucansky connected on a 36-yard field goal to put the underdogs back on top by 3. The Bulls couldn’t get anything going on their last drive of the half and the boo birds came out as USF headed to the locker room trailing by 3.
The 2nd half didn’t start the way the Bulls wanted to either. After a few solid plays Flowers was intercepted by Travon Reid-Segure to get the Seawolves back the ball at their own 40-yard line. Stony Brook drove into USF territory, but a big Kevin Kegler on 3rd down knocked the Seawolves out of field goal range and forced a punt. The offense finally showed some life after that. The Bulls went on an 18-play drive that was capped by a 6-yard touchdown pass from Flowers to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. That gave USF their 1st lead of the game at 14-10. That taste of a lead seemed to ignite the stadium and the team. The defense forced a quick punt and Tajee Fullwood came up big with a 46-yard return to give the offense the ball at the Stony Brook 15-yard line. The Seawolves defense stepped up themselves and USF had to settle for a 33-yard Emilio Nadelman field goal.
Stony Brook wouldn’t go away easily. The Seawolves scored on a huge 54-yard touchdown run for Stacey Bedell less than 2 minutes into the final frame to tie it back up at 17. USF wanted nothing of that. Less than 2 minutes later, Flowers threw his best pass of the game. Tyre McCants hauled it in for a 65-yard touchdown to put the Bulls right back on top. With less than 4 minutes left in the game McCants dropped a sure 1st down that probably would’ve iced the game. The Bulls had to punt it away, but the Stony Brook return man called for a fair catch at his own 2-yard line to pin his offense back against the goalline. The USF defense stepped up again as Mazzi Wilkins intercepted Carbone to effectively ice the game.
USF will head out on the road next week to begin American Athletic Conference play. The Bulls will head to East Hartford to take on Randy Edsall’s UCONN Huskies. The Huskies are coming off of a come from behind victory against Holy Cross in their opener. Kickoff is scheduled for Noon.