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Fennelly: This is how USF is supposed to look

Octavio Jones | Times




Football was back. That might have been victory enough.

But there was more.

“Tonight was a major step forward,” USF coach Charlie Strong said.

We still haven’t seen No. 22 USF put together a complete game, even after a 47-23 win in Lovie Smith’s return Raymond James Stadium. It was as if Lovie never left.

But can I say something?

USF just beat the ever-living stuffing and put up nearly 700 yards on a Big Ten team, albeit Illinois, on just three days of practice after Irma.

The Bulls struck the proper tone heading into Friday night’s game. Strong invited high school football teams whose games had been canceled by Irma, no charge. The same went for first responders and their families. It was a wonderful gesture by Strong and USF.

Another wonderful thing: USF junior Anthony Beko and senior Spencer Adkinson led the team onto the field carrying the American flag and Florida state flag.

Okay, so maybe someone should have been carrying the penalty flag. It was a remarkably sloppy game at times – 26 penalties for 225 yards. And that was by halftime.

But can I say something?

USF put up 680 yards of offense, 376 on the ground. The 3-0 Bulls had three 100-yard rushers. The playbook was pried open. Quarterback Quinton Flowers threw for 280 yards and four touchdowns and improvised away and ran for 106 yards and another score.

This is how he is supposed to look. This is how the USF offense is supposed to look.

And it came just a handful of days after Strong and his staff were frantically reaching out to players, to tell them, if needed, to hunker down with him at the Selmon athletics building as Irma approached.

They were part of a community exhausted with worry, on edge.

“It kind of put things in reality,” Strong said.

And then they went out and did something in front of announced crowd of 35,404, which included 87 high school teams from around the state that had had games canceled by Irma and its aftermath, 3,427 players and coaches. Add 2,154 first responders and their families.”

“We wanted to make this night special,” Strong said.

“This was for the city, for the state,” said USF running back D’Ernest Johnson, who ran for 101 yards.

Lovie’s team had no real chance. Remember, Lovie only won three home games in two seasons as Bucs head coach. It's not as if he forgot how to do it.

These Bulls were pegged for nothing less than perfection before the season, something this program has never come close to in its previous 20 seasons.

But they’ve scored at least 30 points in 20 consecutive games, the best active streak in the FBS and fourth longest in history.

It was a couple of seasons ago that then sophomore Flowers went to Willie Taggart and begged him to let Flowers and his teammates loose. Taggart did just that against Syracuse and USF’s offense never looked back. But it had had its struggles in the first two games. Flowers didn’t have to go to Strong this time around. He improvised away.

“No, not at all. I didn’t have to go to Coach Strong,” Flowers said. “Coach Strong knew what I could do and I just went out there and I told the guys I was just going to go out there and be myself. And that’s what I did.”

With all those high schoolers and first responders in attendance.

“It was heartwarming,” USF offensive lineman Cameron Ruff said.

“We wanted to give people something to see,” USF safety Tajee Fullwood said.

Yeah, it was Illinois. And Lovie.

But can I say something?

This is how USF is supposed to look.

[Last modified: Saturday, September 16, 2017 12:58am]


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