Understandably, an anticlimactic vibe hovers over the Birmingham Bowl for many USF fans, who were hoping their season would end a bit farther east, at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta.
But one still can't ignore this game's historical context: It's the last time Quinton Flowers — greatest player in school history — will put on the uniform.
That in itself should compel a hearty legion to trek northward to (fittingly enough) Legion Field. And who knows? Flowers may add another mesmerizing play to his bulging catalogue.
We've gone through it, clip by breathtaking clip, in an effort to compile the top 10 Flowers plays at USF. Truth be told, selecting the top 10 gumbos in New Orleans might've been easier. Our list is sure to elicit some debate, but that's what makes it fun.
Speaking of fun, thanks Q, for all the entertaining, electrifying, enthralling moments. Here are your 10 best (in order) as we see them (with links to the clips of each play):
1. vs. Connecticut (Oct. 15, 2016)
Quintessential Quinton, plain and simple. On this 54-yard touchdown run, Flowers dropped back as if to pass, then tucked it. He eluded one down lineman in the backfield, then feinted left and darted right, duping no fewer than four UConn defenders near the line of scrimmage. Spotting a hole to his left, he sprinted upfield toward the left sideline, and caught blocks from TE Mitchell Wilcox (near the 30) and WR Rodney Adams (near the 10) en route to the end zone. (at 0:27 mark of this link)
2. at Memphis (Nov. 12, 2016)
Few players in America are as adept at creating something out of nothing as Flowers. Exhibit A may be this game-winning 22-yard TD run in the final two minutes of a 49-42 victory. After running into TB Marlon Mack in the backfield, Flowers turned a broken play into a brilliant one. He scrambled to his right, stutter-stepped, turned upfield, juked a Memphis defender out of his cleats at the 10, and ran into the end zone. (at 4:41 mark of this link)
3. at Memphis (Nov. 12, 2016)
Exhibit B of Flowers' uncanny ability to transform a lemon into lemonade. Two plays before his game-winning 22-yard scoring run, Flowers faced third-and-8 from the Tigers 41. On a clear passing situation, Flowers got pressure from an edge rusher to his right and a linebacker dashing untouched up the middle on a delayed blitz. As both converged on him, Flowers stepped up in the pocket and the two Tigers ran into each other. He then darted to his right, where he was wrapped up by a defensive back. Just before his knee hit the ground, he flung the ball to Rodney Adams, who raced down the right sideline for a 13-yard gain. (at 4:25 mark of this link)
4. vs. FAMU (Aug. 5, 2015)
Chronologically, this is probably the first of Flowers' collegiate highlight clips, occurring in the 2015 season opener (his second career start). As his pocket rapidly collapsed, Flowers did a literal 360-degree turn in the backfield to elude a defensive tackle, slipped, regained his footing, then scrambled right. He somehow dodged DE Adarrius Smith then — while on the run — flung a pass across his body to D'Ernest Johnson in the left rear of the end zone for a 22-yard TD. (at this link)
5. at UCF (Nov. 24, 2017)
Flowers said this one's his personal favorite. Down by eight with less than two minutes remaining at UCF, he took a simple shotgun snap and launched a throw that traveled 50-plus yards in the air to Darnell Salomon, who had gotten behind a busted coverage on a post route for an 83-yard score. Simple throw and catch? Not hardly, considering the circumstance and the fact Flowers had a raucous USF student section at his back. (at 5:32 mark of this link)
6. vs. South Carolina (Dec. 29, 2016)
This was Q in the clutch. On USF's first offensive play in overtime of the Birmingham Bowl, Flowers — flushed from the pocket — rolled to his right and flung a 25-yard strike to TE Kano Dillon, who had gotten behind two defenders in the end zone. A fumble (forced by a Mike Love sack) on the ensuing South Carolina possession sealed a 46-39 Bulls triumph. (at this link)
7. vs. Syracuse (Oct. 10, 2015)
The play in the game that altered the trajectory of USF football (and saved Willie Taggart's job). A day or so before, Taggart had agreed to un-shackle Flowers from the power-based, paint-by-numbers offensive scheme that was going nowhere, and turn him loose. On this play, Flowers took a shotgun snap and handed it to Marlon Mack, who handed it to Rodney Adams on an end-around. Eluding a tackler in the backfield, Adams tossed it back to Flowers, who completed the flea-flicker with a 42-yard scoring pass to quarantined receiver Ryeshene Bronson. (at 1:18 mark of this link)
8. at Memphis (Nov. 12, 2016)
Yes, our list features three plays from one game. While other clips on this list showcase Flowers' arm, improvisational flair and/or elusiveness, this 48-yard TD run brandishes his speed, plain and simple. On fourth-and-3, Flowers faked a jet-sweep handoff to Rodney Adams, ran to his left, found a seam between two Memphis defenders at the Tigers 45, and was gone. (at this link)
9. vs. SMU (Oct. 24, 2015)
No. 2 on Flowers' personal list. He took a shotgun snap, pump faked, then scurried left, hurdling RB Darius Tice (who had just executed a key block). From there, it was a sprint down the left side, with Flowers outrunning the Mustangs until a cornerback with a nice angle ran him down and forced a fumble. TE Marlon Pope recovered, however, preserving a 67-yard gain. (at 1:52 mark of this link)
10. vs. Northern Illinois (Sept. 10, 2016)
In our opinion, this is the prettiest throw Flowers — mostly unappreciated for his arm strength — has ever made in a USF uniform. He took a simple shotgun snap, spotted Ryeshene Bronson in single coverage down the left sideline, and launched a spiral that traveled 55 yards in the air. Bronson caught it in stride for a 73-yard touchdown. (at 0:29 mark of this link)