After jumping four spots in the Amway National Coaches poll, No. 17 USF is preparing for their conference opener in the national spotlight. The Bulls, who are coming off a short week for the second game in a row, will take on defending American Athletic Conference champion Temple (2-1) in a prime time Thursday night match-up.
“It gives people a chance to really see our program,” USF coach Charlie Strong said Tuesday. “Then, when you have an explosive player like Quinton, it gives him a chance for the country to see just how good he really is.”
Quarterback Quinton Flowers’ 386-yard performance last week propelled him toward several program records. He’s now tied with Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack for USF’s career rushing touchdown record with 32.
Flowers, who threw for four touchdowns and ran for another, led an offense who accumulated 680 yards of total offense in Friday’s 47-23 win over Illinois.
“Quinton did a great job of putting the ball into different playmakers hands and they just made plays,” Strong said.
There’s no question that USF’s ground game has been crucial to their success, and coach Strong knows the importance of a balanced attack.
“We had two running backs and a quarterback who rushed for over 100 yards,” he said. “Our offensive linemen had numerous, numerous knock downs.”
USF ranks third in the AAC in rushing offense this season, with Flowers (243) and running backs Darius Tice (256) and D’Ernest Johnson (215) leading the way.
Tice attributes their offensive rhythm to playing with more confidence.
“We feel loose— that’s the most fun we had,” Tice said in reference to Friday’s offensive showing.
“The first two games…we were getting adjusted to certain things and we were still understanding the offense, getting comfortable with the offense,” he added.
The Bulls, who rushed for a season-high 376 yards against Illinois, will look to continue that level of production against Temple.
Temple handed USF one of its two losses last season. That loss ultimately kept the Bulls from playing for a conference title.
“We know what Temple did to us last year,” Strong said. “I just told our players, we can’t worry about last season. We just have to stay locked in and go play our game.”
The memory of last year’s defeat is still fresh for Tice, who was watching from home due to injury.
“It’s very important that we go out and dominate,” he said. “With Temple, it definitely means a lot for us to get out there and play against them again.”
Coach Strong believes the key this time around will be stopping Temple’s ground game.
“If we can force them to throw the football, it gives us a chance to apply pressure and do the things we can do,” he said. “But we can’t allow them to come in and just pound us at the line of scrimmage and win the battle up front.”
Thursday night will give the Bulls a chance for redemption with all eyes on them.