Willie Taggert has the Bulls Ready to Play

By on September 6, 2015

The Bulls gave Willie Taggert a big reason to smile Saturday night. (photo Travis Failey / RSEN)

(Courtesy of the University Of South Florida)

Willie Taggart has talked about how much improvement USF has shown this offseason and the Bulls backed up their head coach big-time in Saturday’s season-opening 51-3 victory over Florida A&M.

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Senior Tight End Marlon Pope exits the tunnel to kickoff the 2015 season. (Photo Travis Failey / RSEN)

 USF’s new up-tempo offense racked up 556 total yards – the seventh-most in program history – and posted the programs most points in a game since 2011. Its stars shined brightly before a crowd of 30,434 at Raymond James Stadium, bolstered by a large and active student section.

Dual-threat quarterback Quinton Flowers , making his second career start,  threw a pair of touchdown passes to D’Ernest Johnson  and totaled 204 all-purpose yards in a little more than a half. Marlon Mack  rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries in his fifth-career 100-yard game. Redshirt freshman tight end Elkanah Dillon  had a stellar debut with four catches for a game-high 126 yards and a touchdown, the most yards for a USF receiver not named Andre Davis since 2011.

Quinton Flowers lead the Bulls while complying and good stat line; 12 for 16, 141 yards, 2TD and 1 INT. (photo travis Failey / RSEN)

Quinton Flowers lead the Bulls while complying a good stat line; 12 for 16, 141 yards, 2TD and 1 INT. (photo Travis Failey / RSEN)

“We worked really hard this offseason. We’re tired of losing,” Flowers said. “We stressed that every day – we’re tired of losing, we’re tired of losing. If we want to make a change, we’ve got to go out there and make plays, and that’s what we did tonight.”

USF’s revamped defense set the tone by forcing two turnovers and holding FAMU to 182 yards of total offense on 72 plays. The Rattlers made only one first down in the opening half and USF’s bullish defense finished with 15.0 tackles for loss, the most in a game since the 2007 season.

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Jalen Spencer with the interception in the fourth quarter. (Photo-Travis Failey)

“Just having 11 guys flying to the ball, that’s key in any good defensive team is you have a bunch of guys running to the ball,” said linebacker Auggie Sanchez, who finished with a team-high 10 tackles. “I think today we accomplished that and that was big-time in our victory.”


Auggie Sanchez (photo Travis Failey / RSEN)

The third meeting between USF and Florida A&M began with a dominant effort by new coordinator Tom Allen’s 4-2-5 defense. USF gave up a total of just 8 yards on FAMU’s first three drives while the Rattlers went three-and-out each time. The Bulls grabbed the lead with 2 minutes remaining in the first quarter on Emilio Nadelman’s first-career field goal from 22 yards out.


Bruce Hector (60) sacks FAMU Quarterback Carson Royal (12) (photo Travis Failey / RSEN)

 Operating in the new defensive scheme, USF surrendered just 7 total yards in the first quarter with first-career sacks by Bruce Hector (Tampa) and Daniel Awoleke (Lakeland). Hector, a sophomore defensive tackle out of Tampa’s Robinson High School, had two sacks by halftime and finished with six total tackles and 3.0 TFL.

“Bruce has been waiting his time to get out there and play. For him to play the way he did, that was big,” Taggart said. “I think that’s going to help his confidence so much.”

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Bulls defense swarms Famu’s Devondrick Nealy. (Photo Travis Failey / RSEN)

 USF’s offense had little trouble picking up yards (166 midway through the second quarter) and the Bulls showed off their big-play ability on the way to the end zone.

 Facing a third-and-goal at the FAMU 22, Flowers scrambled out of trouble to his right and found Johnson across the field for a touchdown with 7:24 to go before halftime. The highlight-reel play marked Johnson’s second-career touchdown reception and the first TD pass of Flowers’ career.


Flowers scrambles before throwing across his body for his first touchdown of the season. (Photo Travis Failey / RSEN)

 “I felt like I had a shot to get it to D’Ernest,” Flowers said. “Coach T stresses that in practice – give them a chance to catch the ball. My O-line gave me time back there and I just gave him a good ball to catch and go.”

Quniton-Flowers celbrates MakDjulbegovic (71 ) and DominiqueThreatt (61) (photo Travis Failey / RSEN)

Quniton Flowers celebrates with Mak Djulbegovic (71 ) and Dominique Threatt (61) (Photo Travis Failey / RSEN)

The Flowers-Johnson connection produced more fireworks before halftime following FAMU’s seventh punt. Flowers capped off a four-play, 88-yard drive by hitting Johnson in stride down the left sideline for a 45-yard touchdown with 1:16 remaining before the break.

 Making his second-career start, Flowers headed to the locker room with confidence after completing 11 of 15 passes for 136 yards on top of six rushes for 34 yards. USF racked up 137 rushing yards in the first half, as Mack led the ground attack with 17 carries for 85 yards.

 Using their new up-tempo approach, the Bulls opened with a 273-23 advantage in total yards after running 42 plays in the first half. On the other hand, FAMU ran just 25 plays on offense against a Bulls defense that swarmed to the ball early and often. The Rattlers had six three-and-outs in the opening half and recorded their initial first down of the game with about 4 minutes remaining in the second quarter. FAMU rushed for negative-12 yards on its first 16 carries.

 “They took all the things we were talking about this week and they literally took it to the game. That was good to see,” Taggart said.

 Fans were still walking back to their seats when the USF offense raced back to the end zone less than a minute into the third quarter. Mack passed the century mark with a 32-yard run before Flowers helped spot USF a 23-0 lead with a 29-yard scoring run.

Freshman tight end Elkanah Dillon led the team with 126 receiving yards on just four catches. He became the first player other than Andre Davis to record a 100-plus yard receiving game since Deonte Welch had 130 yards vs. Cincinnati on Oct. 22, 2011. -Dillon made his first-career catch, a 14-yard reception, on the last play of the first half. - Dillion hauled in his first-career touchdown catch with a 62-yard reception in the third quarter. (photo Travis Failey / RSEN)

Freshman tight end Elkanah Dillon led the team with 126 receiving yards on just four catches. He became the first player other than Andre Davis to record a 100-plus yard receiving game since Deonte Welch had 130 yards vs. Cincinnati on Oct. 22, 2011. He catches a 62 yard touchdown on this play.
(photo Travis Failey / RSEN)

Flowers called it a night after FAMU’s ninth punt and backup Steven Bench continued to keep the offense motoring along. The senior from Bainbridge, Ga., capped off a five-play, 71-yard drive with a 62-yard touchdown pass to Dillon. Leading 30-0, USF sported a 420-24 advantage in total yards with nearly 9 minutes remaining in the third quarter.

And Steven Bench with the save... 8 for 10, 140 yards and 1 TD in relief of Flowers. (photo Travis Failey / RSEN)

And Steven Bench with the save… 8 for 10, 140 yards and 1 TD in relief of Flowers. (photo Travis Failey / RSEN)

FAMU’s offense moved the ball past midfield for the first time on its 10th drive. The Rattlers got on the scoreboard on a 21-yard field goal by Colby Blanton with 4:29 remaining in the third quarter.

  USF’s quick-strike offense struck again less than 4 minutes into the fourth quarter following an interception by freshman cornerback Ronnie Hoggins.

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Brynjar Gudmundsson (64) leads the way as Marlon Mack sprints down the sideline. (Photo/Travis Failey)

Dillon secured his 100-yard receiving game with a 28-yard catch and Mack helped put USF ahead, 37-3, with a 1-yard TD run with 11:35 to play. The three-play, 33-yard drive took just 39 seconds and marked the Bulls’ third touchdown drive of the night in 1 minute, 3 seconds or less.

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Marlon Mack scores from a yard out. (Photo Travis Failey / RSEN)

 “We knew what we had in Elkanah,” Taggart said. “What you all saw tonight, we saw all last year. He did that to our defense on scout team last year and we knew we had a player there.”


Steven Bench runs one in for the touchdown. (Photo Travis Failey / RSEN)

Bench finished 8-for-10 for 140 yards through the air and used his feet to produce a 15-yard touchdown run as USF grabbed a 44-3 lead with 2:58 remaining.

 “We said we were going to put him in the second series of the second half. We let him go and he did a great job,” Taggart said.

Junior Darius Tice (Miami) put the exclamation mark on USF’s opening statement with a 2-yard TD run with 29 seconds remaining. USF’s 51 points were the most in a single game under Taggart, who was proud to say the least. (photo Travis Failey / RSEN)

Junior Darius Tice (31) put the exclamation mark on USF’s opening statement with a 2-yard TD run with 29 seconds remaining.  (photo Travis Failey / RSEN)

“Ever since December, these kids have been working their tails off. They’ve been working, working working,” Taggart said. “Our guys have been all in. I’m so happy with those guys and the way they competed. Everything we asked them to do they’ve been doing it.”


(Photo Travis Failey / RSEN)

The Bulls look to keep a very good thing going Saturday, Sept. 12 at No. 8/10 Florida State. Kickoff is set for 11:30 a.m. and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN.

 “They always say you can make your most improvement from game one to game two, and we’ve got a helluva game two coming up,” Taggart said. “We’ll see how much this football team improves.”

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