Bulls fans who believe QB Quinton Flowers wasn't afforded enough latitude in the 2017 offense got some figurative fuel for their argument Thursday.
Or more specifically, kerosene in the form of a conversion. That game-tying two-point play in the waning moments of the UCF game? Flowers audibled to it, TB D'Ernest Johnson said.
The conversion, following Flowers' 83-yard touchdown pass to Darnell Salomon, ended with Flowers — who scrambled to his right — throwing back across his body to Johnson, who was quarantined on the left side of the end zone. The play tied the score at 42-all, though UCF prevailed 49-42, when Mike James returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown.
"That play was not even designed to come to me," Johnson said.
"Quinton said, 'You know what, we're just gonna move you to the left side. Come on the left side of me, act like you're gonna block on a rollout.' I acted like I was blocking the (defensive) end and he rolled out to the right, and I was wide open in the back of the end zone."
Johnson said the initial play was designed to go to the right side, where USF had three receivers aligned. As a clip of the play shows (go to the 5:52 mark of this link), none of the three appear to be open as Flowers rolls to his right, leaving Johnson — who made a nice block before releasing — uncovered.
Johnson insists that's how Flowers planned it beforehand.
"He told me, 'Look here bro, we're fixing to do our own thing. Just make it happen,'" Johnson said.
'SPRING' IN DECEMBER: Defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary acknowledged USF's session of bowl practices — spanning nearly three full weeks — are being used partially to assess younger players. The Bulls are expected to start as many as 11 seniors in the Birmingham Bowl, including at least six on defense.
While the staff didn't implement any wholesale young-guys practice periods, Jean-Mary said some offense-versus-defense sessions featured liberal doses of players who will be counted on for increased roles in 2018.
"I told all these kids, you can't wait 'til spring practice or winter conditioning. There's a lot of film that we can watch going into spring practice as we're setting the depth chart," Jean-Mary said.
"So it's very valuable for some of these kids that have only been scout-team players. Now you get a chance to show what you can do. So as we're setting the depth chart going into spring, we shouldn't be surprised or disappointed because of what we had already seen in bowl practice."
BACK TO BASE: After employing primarily a dime package at UCF to compensate for the Knights' speed (and five-receiver formations), Jean-Mary said he hopes to use more of his conventional 4-2-5 look against Texas Tech.
While ranking 11th nationally in pass offense (326.8 ypg), the Red Raiders average a mildly respectable 141.6 rushing yards.
"Our goal is always to stop the run first, and we feel like with our base guys that's the best way, even for a team like this that's probably 70-75 percent pass," Jean-Mary said. "They can still hurt you with the run, so that's always gonna still be our priority."
ODDS AND ENDS: Senior S Devin Abraham has been selected to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, set for Jan. 20 at the Rose Bowl. The game kicks off at 4 p.m. and will be televised live on FS1. … S Tajee Fullwood, who had 10 tackles at UCF, spent Thursday doing rehab work, but the nature of his ailment (if any) is unclear. … The Bulls will practice twice more in Tampa before leaving Tuesday for Birmingham.