Written by Ernie Casanova
EAST HARTFORD— With the stakes getting higher and higher each week, these two teams came in with the exact same idea in their mind: Get a win. USF was coming off of their first loss of the season, while UConn had a two-game winning streak snapped last week against Missouri. Each team couldn’t afford to entertain a loss as every one of their games left is a must win, and UConn is facing a much tougher back end of the schedule than USF. With both of them playing for postseason privileges and conference superiority, this was destined to be a hard fought game by both groups. USF pulled out a needed win convincingly to improve to 8-1 (5-1 AAC) with a score of 37-20, while the Huskies dropped to 3-6 (2-4 AAC) and have most likely lost all hopes of a bowl berth.
USF QB Quinton Flowers was the leader of the show from beginning to end. His receivers were dropping passes from left to right, but yet still managed to go 24 of 37 for 385 yards and three touchdown throws. He also added 131 rushing yards on 16 carries and was the key contributor for this offense the entire game with a total of 516 yards from scrimmage.
“When you think about it, this is why I committed to the University of South Florida. When I enrolled, this team was 2-8. I always had a dream to come to a school and change the program.” Flowers said, when asked about how aware he is of his record-breaking performance.
He became the seventh FBS player to pass for more than 7,000 yards and rush for 3,000 in their career. He also became the fourth player in AAC history to have a 500-yard day. It was a remarkable day for this senior quarterback and the team as a whole.
At the half he was 9-14 passing for 146 yards, throwing one TD and one interception. He also used his legs to keep the Huskies at bay and set up the first score of the game. As the 9th ranked rushing team in the nation, the Bulls weren’t producing much outside of Flowers the whole game. He led the team in rushing, as his two stud running backs in Darius Tice and D’Ernest Johnson were being contained most of the time. Johnson was on the receiving end of one of Flowers’ touchdown passes, but the running game had no effect from the RB position.
Leading the receiving core was WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling with six catches for 152 yards and WR Tyre Mccants with 89 yards and six grabs of his own. Scantling had an amazing 95-yard catch and run for a touchdown that defined the tempo of the entire game and solidified how accurate Flowers can throw the ball. He placed it perfectly and instilled trust into his receivers as they had mishaps all game, but it paid off.
The Bulls came in and had some trouble making plays on offense early, but the defense was on point from start to finish. Eight tackles for losses, one interception, and four sacks. This defense was ready to shut down all aspects of this UConn offense. Of course, the Huskies got by them a few times, however they would only get so far up the field. Seven USF players had a tackle for a loss out of the eight created, and the defense just wasn’t giving the Huskies any chances. This is the type of defensive play Coach Charlie Strong is known for and will be heavily needed in the upcoming weeks if they have hopes of a conference title and bowl game. In the season finale they play UCF, who is the top offense in the nation, and USF will be looking to display a similar showing as that game will most likely determine who will play in the AAC championship.
UConn QB Bryant Shirreffs had an above average performance and held his own for quite some time against a very energetic defense. He had some respectable numbers, going 17 of 23 passing and throwing for 133 yards as he was the only consistent player on this team today. He didn’t do enough with his legs, most in part because of the Bulls’ steady defense and was replaced later on in the game by QB David Pindell as the deficit grew. He has once again spread the ball to whoever is capable of contributing, throwing to nine different receivers, but was not assisted in the running game.
The leading rusher was RB Kevin Mensah, as he had 95 yards on 22 rushes, but the padding of the numbers came off of late runs in garbage time. Shirreffs was second in line with only 28 yards on the ground and does not have the ability to take control much how Flowers does. This UConn team is most certainly out of the postseason picture as they play UCF the following week, and it will only be a much more difficult game for them. Sitting at 3-6, they are now likely to play only for an end of the season statement if they do not win out.
From the first tick on the clock, you can tell the Bulls were playing with a chip on their shoulder. They were still feeling the effects of that shocking loss last week to Houston and were dominating defensively on every play.
“Well I just like how well we were able to bounce back. I just talked to my seniors and I told them, ‘Look, this is your football team and they’re gonna go as you lead them.’ It’s all about us making sure that you finish out the right way. Just to see us bounce back the way we did and the level of energy that we brought, it’s really good especially when the rest of the team looks at it from the senior’s perspective.” Coach Strong stated when asked how emotionally affected the team was after last week’s loss,
USF will have a bye week this upcoming week and will take on Tulsa at 7:30 PM ET on November 16th at home.
UConn travels to Orlando and take on the UCF Knights on November 11th at 12:00 PM ET.