South Florida Bulls look for positives entering AAC play

A physical NC State team took a 49-17 victory over South Florida. 
NCAA Football: North Carolina State at South Florida

South Florida Bulls quarterback Mike White (14) drops back to pass during the first half against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Raymond James Stadium. (Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports)

(C+P) — The newly-installed “Cooling Zone” may have helped fans beat the heat on the north patio above the South Florida student section of Raymond James Stadium on Saturday, but it did little to cool off a torrid North Carolina State Wolfpack team.

The ACC school rolled up 589 total yards and 30 first downs on its way to a dominating 49-17 non-conference victory over the South Florida Bulls (1-2).

The Wolfpack, which moved to 3-0, controlled the line of scrimmage and quarterback Jacoby Brissett took full advantage; completing 20 of 29 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns.

“They physically got after us on both sides of the ball,” said USF head coach Willie Taggart. “That was the big difference.”

Senior offensive lineman Darrell Williams concurred.

“They were definitely more physical than us,” Williams said. “We’ll have to practice better. Really hone in on practicing better. Next week is physical bunch and we’ll have to match their intensity.”

Despite rushing for just 70 yards and totaling 159 yards of offense, there were a few bright spots for the Bulls, who open AAC play at 8 p.m. Friday when they host UConn in a nationally televised game on ESPN.

Sophomore quarterback Mike White (4-16-0, 82 yards) delivered a 75-yard touchdown pass, the longest of his career, to freshman Ryshene Bronson that tied at the game early in the first quarter.

Senior defensive back Chris Dunkley, a Paul Hornung watch list member, averaged 21.5 yards on two kick returns and also had an 80-yard punt return touchdown called back by a holding penalty. Dunkley forced the Wolfpack into the punting situation by breaking up a third-down pass. His return would have given the Bulls the lead in the first quarter.

South Florida Bulls defensive back Lamar Robbins (6) returns an interception for a touchdown in the second half against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Raymond James Stadium. (Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports)
South Florida Bulls defensive back Lamar Robbins (6) returns an interception for a touchdown in the second half against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Raymond James Stadium. (Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports)

Instead, N.C. State grabbed the momentum with a late-first quarter drive to take the lead for good. The Wolfpack forced a controversial fumble early in the second quarter that resulted in a 19-yard scoring drive, which opened the flood gates to a 21-point second quarter and a 35-7 halftime lead.

The fumble occurred when White was hit while delivering a pass. The play was called a fumble, rather than an incomplete pass, and the ruling was upheld after review.

“I thought I threw the ball,” White said. “I thought we got robbed on that call. Once again that’s just adversity we have to overcome, that’s our motto. Things like that are going to happen, we have to overcome it.”

Sophomore defensive back Lamar Robbins got the Bulls’ second touchdown with a 46-yard interception return in the third quarter. It was Robbins’ second pick this season and second defensive touchdown for the Bulls in 2014.

South Florida entered the game fourth in the country in turnovers and has now forced nine in the first three games of this season. The Bulls have scored five defensive touchdowns since the start of 2013 under defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan.

Freshman quarterback Quinton Flowers made his college debut on Saturday. He is the eighth true freshman to play for the Bulls this season. Flowers rushed for 32 yards on six carries. He completed just one of four pass attempts with two interceptions. He engineered a nice drive late in the fourth quarter that was halted by an interception in the end zone.

Flowers’ appearance brings into question the future of junior Steven Bench, who some believed would be the starting quarterback when the season began.

“He’s our backup quarterback,” Taggart said. “Mike’s our starting quarterback. Quinton’s our third quarterback who can come in and do some things. I put Quinton in the game there because I was tired of seeing Mike get hit every time he tried to throw the football. I wanted to see if Quinton could come in there and give us something.”

Junior transfer Eric Dungy, son of former Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy, made his first catch for USF after transferring from Oregon. The Tampa Plant High School graduate had seven career receptions for 75 yards and one touchdown for the Ducks.

Defensively, the Bulls were afforded ample opportunity to pat their stats. Jamie Byrd, who entered the game 20th in the NCAA with an average of seven tackles per game, added eight on Saturday. Nate Godwin also contributed with a season-high eight tackles, and linebacker Rahmon Swain recorded a career-high seven tackles and came up with his first career fumble recovery.

The kicking game remained solid. Marvin Kloss nailed his only field goal attempt, a 43-yarder in the third quarter. The senior from Naples, Fl. is 5-for-5 from inside 50 yards. His only miss of the season was from 54 yards out.

So now, with three games under their belt, the Bulls get ready for conference play.

“I believe in this football team and I think we’re going to have a hell of a season before it’s all said and done,” said Taggart, who is expecting a dog fight from the visiting Huskies. “They’re going to come in fighting. It’s their first conference game and they want to get a win. You’re going to see two football teams who want to get a win and try to find a way to get back into the win column.”

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