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Rapid Recap- Bulls save best for last to win Birmingham Bowl dramatically

Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports
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After a back-and-forth game at Legion Field on Saturday, USF pulled through with a dramatic 38-34 win over Texas Tech in the Birmingham Bowl.

The Bulls struggled to find their offensive rhythm, only managing 130 yards in the first half. However, things got going in the second half when, QB Quinton Flowers connected with Darnell Salomon for a 17-yard touchdown pass to cap off a 75-yard scoring drive.

It marks the Bulls’ 10th win in Flowers’ last game in green and gold.

Flowers finished the game completing 17 of 24 passes for 311 yards and four touchdowns through the air. His fourth touchdown pass lifted USF to victory over the Red Raiders. Flowers found slot receiver Tyre McCants down the right sideline with this  26-yard touchdown with just 16 seconds remaining. 

The winning play capped off a special season for the Bulls and their senior quarterback.

Flowers, who was named the game’s MVP, is one of USF’s 23 seniors that have led USF’s program to its winningest era — going 28-9 in three seasons, and winning 10 games in back-to-back years.

The dual-threat quarterback has become the school’s all-time career rushing leader — leaving his mark on USF’s program with 11,802 total yards and a school-record 70 touchdown passes.

Texas Tech was valiant as QB Nic Shimonek threw for 416 yards and three touchdowns. This included his 25 yard strike to T.J. Vasher with 1:31 left that had given the Red Raiders a 34-31 lead.

But, it only took the Bulls 1:15 to race down the field 75 yards for the winning score. Flowers final USF TD came with only :16 left in the game.

Shimonek and Texas Tech had one last gasp, but his “Hail Mary” attempt for the win never reached the endzone and while Vasher caught it, he was tackled at the 13 yard line, as time expired.

It is the first time in the Bulls 22 years of football that they have won 10 or more games in back to back seasons.

Olivia is a multi-faceted sports reporter based in Tampa Bay where she has covered events from the College Football National Championship to the Stanley Cup Final. A native Floridian, she grew up rooting for Tampa’s sports teams, and graduated from East Lake High in Tarpon Springs. Olivia continued her education at the University of Florida where she received her broadcast journalism degree.

USF Bulls

Bulls sticking with Jordan McCloud as starting QB

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

After two less than stellar offensive performances by the Bulls to start the season, USF head coach Charlie Strong and OC Kerwin Bell decided to switch things up for week 3. Just two hours before game time, the team learned that Jordan McCloud would be the starting quarterback against South Carolina state.

In fact, the decision was made so last minute that the video board in Raymond James Stadium still showed Blake Barnett as starter.

And it turned out to be a good decision.

The Bulls pulled away with their first win of the season in a 55-16 domination over the Bulldogs.

And it’s looking like they Bulls are going to try to build a win streak by keeping McCloud under center next week.

McCloud’s starting quarterback career started off a bit shaky. In his first snap, he tossed an incomplete pass intended for sophomore slot receiver Johnny Ford for a loss of 3 yards. The Bulls lost 12 yards in its first two drives with three incomplete passes and a sack.

However, he settled down on the next drive and led the offense for a gain of 64 yards, complete with a 42-yard touchdown pass to Ford. McCloud finished the game throwing for 217 yards with three touchdowns, and rushing for 56 yards. Most importantly, he proved to be shiftier behind a spotty O-Line, which allowed him to complete more plays than Blake Barnett has this season.

The redshirt freshman is a Tampa native who as senior in high school completed 160 of 295 passes for 2,426 yards and 26 touchdowns. He originally played at Sickles High School in 2017, but transferred to powerhouse 7A State title contender, Plant High. That’s where he had a 12-2 record, district and regional titles, and a trip to the state semifinals in 2018.

While it’s likely that Barnett would’ve put up similar numbers against South Carolina State, his most recent loss against Georgia Tech last weekend marked an 8 game losing streak for South Florida, and there was something to be said for switching things up and trying out McCloud.

He was able to spark USF, where Barnett clearly has not been able to since last October.

Coach Strong knows he needs to capitalize on this momentum, before this season becomes his last in Tampa.

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USF Bulls

Bulls OC Bell takes responsibility for shut out against Wisconsin

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

In Friday night’s opener against Big Ten perennial contender Wisconsin, the Bulls had suffered their worst loss in program history and left fans wondering what has caused such a downward spiral in the program over the last year and a half? And in a 49-0 loss, its hard to tell which side of the ball is a bigger struggle for the South Florida program?

While both looked alarmingly bad, the lack of offense was the ultimate reasoning behind the shut out, which led coordinator Kerwin Bell to taking full responsibility when speaking to the media on Wednesday.

“I’m the OC so I take all the blame, that’s all on my shoulders,” said Bell. “I’ve been in that position before, I’ve been shut out before, it didn’t feel good and surely last Friday night didn’t also. I was very disappointed in our performance. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Bell offered somewhat of an explanation as to why the team came out looking so ill-prepared and resembling every bit the team that lost their final six games last season. He said it’s the style of offense he’s introducing and that it takes time to get a team fully acclimated to it, which is not a new feat for him.

“This system is a little bit different than what everybody runs in college football, it’s more of a pro style. A lot of thinking, a lot of going through progressions and receivers changing their route on the run,” he added, “It takes a little bit of time and I’ve incorporated this thing 3 or 4 times now in new systems and we’ll be able to handle it. We’ll get up to speed, we just need some success with it.”

Bell also touched on the absence of USFs star slot receiver Johnny Ford. While there’s been no explanation to why he sat out of last weekends game, the Bulls play-caller did say that having him back will free up the rest of the offense in a major way.

“Johnny missing the game was big for us. We had a lot stuff on him to handle some of their man coverages. He’s a great man beater for us. With him being out it really put a lot of extra emphasis on other guys and he really frees up the team because he’s got so much ability running and catching the football.”

Bell, as head coach, led Valdosta State to an unbeaten season this past year and the Division II national championship. His offense at Valdosta led the nation in scoring (52.0 ppg), ranked second in first downs (341) and was fourth in total offense (523.9 ypg), red-zone offense (.901) and pass efficiency (167.37).

He has been around the block, coaching at various levels of college ball plus the CFL and high school. In addition to his many stops along the way as a coach, he also carved out a professional playing career which lasted over a decade.

Although he may have a history of offensive success, he’ll have a short timeline to start seeing success under head coach Charlie Strong or it may be a foregone conclusion before USF ever begins American Conference play, that this will be Strong’s final year and would likely Bells, as well.

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