The #19 USF Bulls easily handled the San Jose Spartans by a score of 42-22 on Saturday night. A slow start gave San Jose State an early 16-0 edge by the end of the first quarter of play, but the Bulls would go on to score 42 unanswered points to secure the win.
Things were bad for USF from the start. The Bulls drew a penalty on the opening kickoff as kicker, Emelio Nadelman, sent the ball out of bounds. That set the Spartans up for first down on their own 35 yard line. After San Jose State failed to convert a first down on the first possession of the game, punter Michael Carrizosa, kicked the ball 53 yards to pin the Bulls down on their own three yard line. USF, unable to convert a first down on their own first possession, made things worse with a delay of game penalty, forcing punter Jonathan Hernandez to kick from deep within the end zone. Hernandez’ lack of space and rushed delivery managed to move the ball just 18 yards down the field and out-of-bounds.
The Spartans began their second drive of the game on the USF 22, already within field goal range. They would drive down to the 12, before a penalty pushed the back to the 17, where kicker, Bryce Crawford, made a 33 yard field goal. San Jose State had the first lead of the game, 3-0, with 11:24 remaining in the first quarter.
The subsequent USF possession started on their own 20 after a touchback. Running back, D’Ernest Johnson ran for a loss of 5 yards on first down and a loss of 3 yards on third down. Quarterback, Quinton Flowers, was sacked for a seven yard loss on second down. No positive yardage was produced, and Hernandez’ second punt of the game was for 37 yards from the USF ten yard line.
The Bulls had handed the Spartans great field position on back to back possessions, and they did not waste them. Beginning on the USF 47 yard line, they ran two running plays for little gain. Then, on third down and nine to go, quarterback Josh love connected with Justin Holmes for a 32 yard catch and run. That set up big momentum and first down on the USF ten yard line. Once again, the big play came on third down. Love found receiver, Bailey Gaither, for a touchdown. With 8:28 left in the first quarter, the Spartans led, 10-0.
USF started their next possession on their own 25 after another Carizosa touchback. Running back, Darius Tice, carried the ball twice for a total of nine yards, but they were again forced to punt. This time, after punts of 18 and 37 yards, Hernandez kicked it deep for 46 yards to the San Jose State 20 yard line.
The Spartans were unable to move the chains, going three and out. Punter, Carizosa sent another big punt to the Bulls. With a very friendly roll for San Jose State, USF took over on their own 7.
This was the first drive of the game where USF would earn a first down. Johnson carried for six yards on first down and two yards on second down. With third and six to go, Flowers busted out his first big run of the game, 22 yards to the USF 33. The following two downs seemed to revert to the sloppiness of the earlier possessions. On first down, Flowers ran for a two yard loss. On second down, he was sacked for a loss of six. Faced with fourth and 15, they were forced to punt from their own 28 yard line. The punt was blocked by Bailey Gaither and returned for 26 yards by Dakari Monroe to the USF 6 yard line.
With momentum and six yards to glory, Love and Bailey connected for the first touchdown of the game, putting the Spartans up, 16-0. However, the point after was blocked.
The Bulls would go three and out, once again, giving the ball back to the Spartans on their own 45 yard line. San Jose State made solid progress to the USF 33 before running into a fourth and one situation. They would opt for a conversion attempt. Running back, Malike Roberson, ran for a one yard loss, handing the ball over on downs at the USF 34.
The failed fourth down conversion and improving composure and confidence for the Bulls yielded their first points of the game on the following drive. Flowers ran for ten yards on first down before finding receiver, Marques Valdes-Scantling, for 13 yards on third down. Runs by Flowers and Johnson set up first down at the San Jose State 24 yard line. On the next play, Flowers connected with receiver, Darnell Saloman, for a 24 yard touchdown. With 13:41 on the board, Spartans led, 16-7.
The change in momentum seemed to return things to pre-game expectations. The next Spartan drive consisted of a nine yard run by Josh Oliver, followed by a 13 yard run by Zamore Zigler. Another 2 yard run by Zigler brought second and eight on the USF 36. Then, Love’s pass was knocked down and caught in impressive fashion by a diving Nico Sawtelle.
Seeing the world righted once again, the Bulls went on to score another touchdown on this possession, a two yard run by Johnson. They trailed 16-14 with 9:25 left in the second quarter.
The next drive by San Jose State ended in similar fashion. After six plays of positive progress from their own 25 to the USF 42, Love was intercepted by Devin Abraham, who carried it back 27 yards to the USF 41. Three plays later, Temi Alaka is on the receiving end of a 49 yard touchdown pass from Flowers. With 7:13 left in the half, USF had finally taken the lead, 21-16.
After trading field position for three possessions, USF took control at the 50 yard line. The handoff goes to Johnson, who carried the ball 50 yards for the score. With just over two minutes remaining in the half, Bulls extended their lead to 28-16.
The first four drives of the second half were field position battles. On their third possession of the half, USF got things going with a 14 yard scamper by Flowers, bringing up first and ten on the USF 34. Flowers then connected with Valdes-Scantling for a 50 yard pass. Five downs later, Tice carried the final yard for the fifth Bulls touchdown of the game. With 7:35 remaining in the third quarter, the score was 35-16.
USF would score their final touchdown of the game with just under ten minutes left in the game when Flowers ran for his third touchdown of the game. The score was set up by a 24 yard catch by Tyre McCants and a 14 yard catch by Valdes-Scantling.
After 42 unanswered points and three interceptions, San Jose State made a change at quarterback. Montel Aaron’s first drive ended in a punt. On his second possession, however, he connected with Gaither for 24 yards and Holmes for 22 yards and a touchdown. The extra point was blocked for the second time in the game. The score at 8:25 remaining was 42-22.
Despite a strong start for his team, Love had a bad day. While he had 192 yards and two scores, two of his three interceptions turned into points for the other team. Gaither led receivers with 100 yards and two touchdowns. Holmes turned in 77 and a score. The Spartans only rushed for 109 yards as a team. Roberson led the team with 50 yards rushing.
Flowers passed for 212 yards and two touchdowns in the win. He also ran for 70 yards and another score to bring his total offensive output to 282 yards and three touchdowns. Johnson and Tice both got near the century mark, running for 99 and 94 yards, respectively. Johnson finished with a pair touchdowns and Tice had one. Also nearing the 100 yard mark was receiver, Valdes-Scantling, who had 91 yards receiving.
The #19 Bulls will return to Tampa to host FCS’ Stony Brook next Saturday. San Jose State will be at home against Cal Poly.