USF, a school established in 1956, celebrated the 20th season of Bulls football by taking care of business against Towson State. The Bulls took the opening kick after losing the coin toss and just a little more than a minute and a half later, had put six on the scoreboard. The opening drive of 75 yards began with a 19 yard run by junior running back, Marlon Mack, and ended with a 43 yard score by senior, Darius Tice.
Towson was not able to convert a first down on their first possession, which ended with a punt to USF’s 5 yard line. An 11 yard return set the Bulls up with first and ten on their own 18. Just two plays later, and errant pass thrown by junior quarterback, Quinton Flowers, was intercepted by redshirt freshman cornerback, Justice Pettus-Dixon. The turnover gave the Tigers possession on the USF 41 yard line, and they were able grind down to the 12, before kicking a field goal, making it 7-3.
The following kickoff was caught by senior receiver, Rodney Adams, who caught the ball on the USF 13 and returned it all the way to the Towson 35 yard line. Flowers would find junior receiver, Marquez Valdes-Scantling for 28 yards. With first and ten on the seven yard line, Mack would score easily, bring the score to 14-3 with 5:55 remaining in the first quarter.
The Tigers were unable to move the chains on their next series, but they were able to force the Bulls to punt on their next two possessions. Just about a minute into the second quarter, Towson fair caught the second of those punts at their own 43 yard line. Senior receiver, Christian Summers, managed to get behind all USF receivers on first down. Sophomore quarterback, Morgan Mahalak, connected with the wide-open Summers for a 56 yard catch and run. That set up first and ten on the USF 1 yard line. Senior running back, Darius Victor, took the ball the extra yard after the first snap, narrowing the Bulls’ lead to 4. With 13:42 remaining in the half, the score was 14-10.
The two teams would exchange turnovers when Mack fumbled the ball on the Towson 26 and sophomore safety, Jaymon Thomas, recovered freshman running back, Shane Simpson’s fumble on the USF 49 yard line. On the first snap of that possession, Flowers hit Valdes-Scantling for a 51 yard touchdown pass. With 6:56 remaining in the first half, USF led 21-10.
Beginning on their own 27 yard line, the Tigers made steady progress down field, breaking into USF territory. After a pair of incomplete passes from the Bulls’ 48 yard line, Mahalak’s pass was intercepted by senior linebacker, Nigel Harris. Harris returned the catch to the Towson State five yard line, setting up an easy quarterback sneak by Flowers on the next play. With just under two minutes to go in the half, the USF lead had expanded to 28-10. Each team would take one more possession before the break, but neither would score again in the half.
USF’s Mack had been roughed up on one of the later drives of the first half, so the Bulls ran by committee in the second half. The Tigers received the second half kickoff, but were not able to get more than one first down before punting. USF took possession on their own 21 yard line. Tice took the handoff on first down 18 yards to the 39 yard line, and the next two for three and 9 yards, respectively. On third and five on the Towson 44, Adams took a handoff for 17 yards. Two plays later, he again rushed for 17, setting up first and goal from the six yard line. Flowers picked up a couple on the next play, but it was Adams who ran for the final four yards to score a rushing touchdown. With just over ten minutes left in the third, the score was 35-10.
The following kickoff was caught by Simpson on the Towson goal line and returned 61 yards to the USF 39 yard line. Victor would carry the ball six times on the way to the next Tiger touchdown. That narrowed the USF lead to 35-17.
The Bulls would begin their next drive on their own 34 yard line. With second and nine to go, Flowers completes to sophomore tight end, Elkanah Dillon, for 27 yards. A pass interference call on the next play set USF up with fresh downs on the Towson 23 yard line. Two plays later, it was Flowers running in the touchdown that put the Bulls up 42-17.
The next possession was looking good for Towson as the steadily progressed from their own 28 yard line out to their 48 in several plays. However, with second and ten to go, Mahalak was sacked by freshman safety, Malik Dixon. The sack resulted in a fumble, which was picked up by senior safety, Nate Godwin, and returned thirteen yards to the Tigers’ 23 yard line. Bulls’ freshman quarterback, Brett Kean, who was in the game to rest Flowers, completed a 23 yard touchdown pass to junior running back, D’Ernest Johnson. The score was 49-17, Bulls, heading into the final quarter of play.
The Tigers would kick a field goal in the following possession, with 11:24 remaining in the game. That drive began on their own 23 yard line and featured a nine yard Mahalak pass to senior receiver, Andre Dessenberg, a ten yard rush by senior fullback Emmanuel Holder, and a 15 yard facemask penalty by USF’s junior tackle, Deadrin Senat. The 33 yard field goal brought the score to 49-20, USF.
The Bulls would punt for just the third time in the game on their next possession. They were not able to recover from a five yard loss on first down by Tice. They would punt, only to have Towson return the favor four plays later.
On the next drive, USF would begin on their 34 yard line. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Towson on first down moved the ball to the Towson 48. Freshman receiver, Deangelo Antoine, rushed for seven yards on first down and received a seven yard pass from Kean on second down. Five plays later, Kean completes a pass to freshman tight end, Mitchell Wilcox, for 21 yards and the final touchdown of the game.
Statistically speaking, USF’s numbers are not impressive. Flowers passed for just 178 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. That’s just two yards more than his last season average, per game. And, it might be expected that he’d do a lot better considering that the opponent was an FCS team.
Kean, who came in to relieve Flowers halfway through the third quarter, passed for 52 yards and two touchdowns. He was 5-7 passing with a long of 23 yards.
The difference in talent level of competition speaks volumes, here. Aside from the first few possessions of the game, it wasn’t really a close game. The Bulls didn’t need to pass much to win. That point is made clearly by examining the time it took to for USF to score. The average scoring drive took just one minute and 16 seconds. All of them took less than four minutes and four of them took less than 30 seconds. In fact, this probably had a negative effect on the USF defense, who gave up 20 points and were on the field more than 15 minutes longer than the offense.
Mack led all rushers with nine carries, 58 yards, and a touchdown. Flowers, who had two touchdowns on nine carries, trailed Mack with 53 yards rushing. Adams, who ran in place of the injured Mack, had 38 yards and a score.
Valdes-Scantling was the top receiver of the day, with 79 yards receiving, one touchdown, and a long of 51. Tice, comes in second, despite having just one reception of 43 yards and a touchdown.
On the defensive side of the ball, junior safety, Tajee Fullwood, and junior linebacker, Auggie Sanchez, each had seven tackles. Dixon, Harris, and sophomore lineman, Eric Mayes, are credited with one sack apiece.
Mahalak passed for 165 yards and no touchdowns for Towson State. Victor rushed for 70 yards and two scores. Dessenberg and Summers led receivers with 59 and 65 yards, respectively. Senior punter, Jake Ryder, had a very good day, averaging almost 50 yards per punt on seven kicks with a long punt of 68 yards. Nearly half of his punts were inside the 20 yard line. Also noteworthy for the Tigers is that they were 4-5 on fourth down.
The Bulls will host Northern Illinois in their next matchup on Saturday, September 10th.
Towson State will go from visiting USF to hosting SFU as Saint Francis University comes to town, Saturday.