Bulls blow Mids away

Navy falls be­hind by 28 in first quar­ter, gives up 629 yards; come­back falls short

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Bill Wag­ner

TAMPA, FLA. — Few would have ever imag­ined that a fail­ure to con­vert a fourth-and-1 on its open­ing pos­ses­sion would turn the tide against Navy in its Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence game with South Florida on Fri­day night.

The Bulls’ of­fense was on fire, and that early turnover on downs just shy of mid­field only added fuel to the flames.

Quar­ter­back Quin­ton Flow­ers used his arm and feet to make the de­fense look silly as South Florida de­feated No. 22 Navy, 52-45, at Ray­mond James Sta­dium. Flow­ers ac­counted for 395 yards of of­fense and four touch­downs as the Bulls handed the Mid­ship­men their first con­fer­ence loss. Tail­backs Mar­lon Mack and D’Ernest Johnson and wide re­ceivers Rod­ney Adams and Tyre McCants also played prom­i­nent roles as South Florida scored touch­downs on six straight pos­ses­sions to start the game and never looked back. Johnson (107) also con­trib­uted as the Bulls set a sin­gle-game school record with 412 rush­ing yards.

Flow­ers com­pleted 19 of 29 passes for 219 yards and two touch­downs for USF (7-2, 4-1), which re­bounded from a 16-point loss to Temple the pre­vi­ous Fri­day night. The dy­namic dual-threat quar­ter­back also ran Jack­sonville, Fla. Satur­day, 11:30 a.m. TV: Chs. 13, 9 Ra­dio: 1090 AM, 1430 AM Line: TBA

for 176 yards and two scores for the Bulls, who led 45-14 early in the fourth quar­ter.

Mack rushed for 125 yards and a touch­down for South Florida, which led 42-14 at half­time. The Bulls, who took their foot off the pedal in the sec­ond half, piled up 629 to­tal yards.

“We ran into a buzz saw tonight. They just had so many things go­ing. Be­tween Flow­ers, Mack and Adams on the edge — they pre­sented so many prob­lems. We had a hard time stop­ping them,” Navy coach Ken Ni­u­mat­alolo said. “Then we sput­tered early on of­fense, which made things worse. Our game plan was al­ways to eat the clock and keep them off the field, but we weren’t able to do that.”

Ni­u­mat­alolo was asked what made the South Florida of­fense more dif­fi­cult to stop than those of Hous­ton and Mem­phis. He said the across-the-board speed of the Bulls was the dif­fer­ence.

“We’ve played some teams that were fast, but they just stretch you out in so many ways and have so many speed guys that can hurt you. They’re a tough team with a great [of­fen­sive] scheme and present a lot of is­sues for you de­fen­sively,” Ni­u­mat­alolo said. “We had a hard time tack­ling them on the perime­ter. We had a hard time tack­ling them in­side. We had our fin­gers in a lot of dif­fer­ent holes, but the ship kept sink­ing.”

Quar­ter­back Will Worth set a sin­glegame school record with 428 to­tal yards and ac­counted for four touch­downs to lead Navy (5-2, 4-1), which outscored South Florida 31-10 in the sec­ond half to make the fi­nal score re­spectable. Slot­back To­neo Gul­ley rushed for 60 yards and two touch­downs for the Mids, who will likely fall out of the na­tional rank­ings as a re­sult of the blowout.

Flow­ers broke loose for a 63-yard touch­down run on the fourth play from scrim­mage and that was a fore­shad­ow­ing of things to come. The 6-foot, 209-pound ju­nior, who runs with power and speed, burst up the mid­dle on a draw and was never touched in giv­ing the home team the lead with just 1:11 elapsed.

Flow­ers suf­fered a ham­string in­jury late in the loss to Temple and did not prac­tice un­til Wed­nes­day. Ni­u­mat­alolo said the Mids were won­der­ing about the health of the strong, speedy sig­nal-caller.

“We weren’t re­ally sure where Flow­ers was at with his ham­string. Un­for­tu­nately, we found out real quick that his ham­string was fine,” Ni­u­mat­alolo said.

It briefly ap­peared it would be a case of South Florida’s quick-strike spread of­fense against Navy’s me­thod­i­cal triple-op­tion at­tack. Full­back Chris High sand­wiched runs of 9 and 8 yards around a 10-yard gain by Worth to set up the Mids with a sec­ond-and-2 sit­u­a­tion from their own 48-yard line.

How­ever, Worth man­aged just 1 yard on sec­ond down while High was stuffed for no gain on third as the drive rapidly un­rav­eled. Ni­u­mat­alolo chose to go for it on fourth-and-1 and Worth was thrown for a 2-yard loss by line­backer Nigel Har­ris.

Ni­u­mat­alolo was asked af­ter­ward whether he went for it on fourth down in his own ter­ri­tory on Navy’s open­ing pos­ses­sion be­cause he felt a need to keep pace with South Florida.

“Yes. We kind of fig­ured that go­ing in. We knew we had to match scores. We didn’t want to fall too far be­hind,” said Ni­u­mat­alolo, not­ing that Navy missed a block­ing as­sign­ment and “turned a guy loose right at the point of at­tack” on the fourth-down play. “That game was more than one play. They had al­most 700 yards of of­fense. We had to find a way to slow them down.”

Handed a short field, South Florida took ad­van­tage with Johnson burst­ing up the mid­dle and scor­ing on a 23-yard run to make it 14-0 mid­way through the first pe­riod.

Navy picked up just one first down be­fore having to punt on its sec­ond pos­ses­sion and South Florida needed only one play to in­crease its lead to 21-0. Mack lined up as a wide re­ceiver, came in mo­tion to take a hand­off, cut up­field through a big hole and eas­ily out­raced sev­eral chas­ing de­fend­ers for an 85-yard touch­down run.

The Mid­ship­men went three-and-out on their third pos­ses­sion and that ba­si­cally sealed their fate. Flow­ers found tight end Elka­nah Dil­lon run­ning wide open down the mid­dle of the field for a 41-yard scor­ing strike that made it 28-0 and put the vis­i­tors in se­ri­ous catch-up mode.

“It’s frus­trat­ing. We gave them a 28point lead and it’s tough to come back against a tal­ented team like that,” Worth said.

CHRIS O’MEARA/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Bulls run­ning back Mar­lon Mack, right, cel­e­brates with of­fen­sive line­man Eric Mayes after scor­ing on a 85-yard touch­down run.

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