(Tampa, FL) Despite a shaky start and several bad penalties on offense, the USF Bulls straightened themselves out and easily defeated the Florida A&M Rattlers 51-3 in their season opener at Raymond James Stadium Saturday night. The Bulls defense was miserly, limiting an anemic Rattler offense to just one first down and just 23 yards total offense in the first half.
The Bulls managed just three points in the first quarter on a 22-yard field goal by Emilio Nadelman with 2 minutes remaining after a Marlon Mack 7-yard touchdown run was negated by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The Bulls had two other touchdowns called back by penalties in the second quarter. Quarterback Quinton Flowers pass to Chris Barr was nullified by an illegal block in the back and Flowers 7-yard sneak was brought back on a holding call.
The Bulls finally tallied a touchdown when Flowers scrambled and broke away from several Rattler defenders and threw across his body to an open Ernest Johnson in the back of the end zone with 7:24 left in the half. A missed extra point limited USF to a 9-0 lead.
Quinton Flowers lofted a 45-yard touchdown pass to Ernest Johnson who rumbled down the sideline to increase the Bulls lead to 16-0 at the half.
USF opened the third quarter with a three play, 66-yard drive in less than a minute capped off by Flowers 22 yard scamper into the end zone giving USF a 23-0 margin.
USF added touchdowns on a 62 yard touchdown toss from Steven Bench to Elkanah Dillon, a 1 yard tally by Marlon Mack who finished the game with 131 yards rushing, a late 15 yard scoring run by Bench with 2:58 left in the game and Darius Tice 2-yard touchdown plunge with :28 left in the contest.
A 21-yard field goal by Colby Blanton finally put FAMU on the board with 4:29 remaining in the third quarter, the Rattlers loan points of the night.
USF totaled 556 yards of total offense against the Rattlers 182. Quinton Flowers completed 12 of 16 passes for 141 yards and 2 touchdowns and ran for 63 yards. Steven Bench went 8 of 10 passing for 140 yards and 1 touchdown. FAMU quarterback Kenneth Coleman was 14 of 29 for 135 yards and 2 interceptions. Coleman had 30 yards on the ground to lead all Rattler rushers.
While the Rattlers were not a great test, the Bulls will take the win and head to next Saturday’s 11:30 AM kickoff up the road in Tallahassee against Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium.
The Bulls opened their 19th season of football tonight. Coming into tonight’s game, USF was 13-5 all time in season openers and 17-1 in home openers.
Sarasota’s Marlon Mack who played at both Booker High School and Sarasota High School, posted an American Athletic Conference and USF record 275 yards rushing in the season opener last year and led the conference in rushing as a freshman with 1041 yards and 9 touchdowns.
Former longtime Manatee Hurricanes head coach and athletic director Joe Kinnan is Head Coach Willie Taggart’s Senior Offensive Consultant this season. Taggart played for Kinnan at Manatee High School and led the team at quarterback to back-to-back state title games and a 5A championship as a junior.
Other local players on the Bulls roster: Evan Wilson, wide receiver, who played at The Out-of Door Academy in Sarasota, Baity Chardonnae, wide receiver, who played at Palmetto High School, Malik Dixon, safety, who played at Port Charlotte High School and Riley Sheehan, fullback, who played at Riverview High School in Sarasota.
USF has 16 players from the Tampa Bay area on the Bulls two-deep roster heading into the 2015 season.
Bradenton native Willie Taggart begins his third season as Bulls head coach. His record in two seasons is 6-18. Overall, Taggart’s coaching record including his stint at Western Kentucky is 22-38. Taggart graduated from Western Kentucky in 1998.
Willie Taggart is the youngest head coach in the American Athletic Conference at 39 years of age and the sixth youngest in the FBS. P.J. Fleck is the youngest head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision at 34.
Temple surprised almost everyone by defeating Penn State 27-10. It was the Owls first win over the Nittany Lions since 1941 breaking a 28 game losing streak. USF hosts Temple at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday November 14.
Announced attendance at tonight’s game, 30,494.
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