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Flowers, Bulls rally past Texas Tech to win Birmingham Bowl

In his collegiate finale, quarterback Quinton Flowers leads USF to 21 fourth-quarter points.
In his collegiate finale, Quinton Flowers totaled 417 yards to lead USF past Texas Tech in the Birmingham Bowl. (LOREN ELLIOTT | Times)
In his collegiate finale, Quinton Flowers totaled 417 yards to lead USF past Texas Tech in the Birmingham Bowl. (LOREN ELLIOTT | Times)
Published Dec. 23, 2017

After falling excruciatingly short of the chance to etch its name on conference title hardware, USF did manage carve out a consolation prize.

The risque Birmingham Bowl trophy, replete with its sculpture of a bare-bottomed Roman god.

Speaking of statues and gods, one must wonder if USF someday will commission an engraved likeness of Quinton Flowers.

In the final game of his glorious college career, Flowers found 235-pound slot receiver Tyre McCants down the right sideline for a 26-yard touchdown with 16 seconds remaining, lifting the Bulls (10-2) to a 38-34 triumph against Texas Tech.

Flowers – named the game's MVP — finished the chilly, damp day with 417 total yards, becoming the school's career rushing leader and the American Athletic Conference's all-time total yardage leader in the process.

He exits USF with 11,802 total yards and a school-record 70 touchdown passes.

And USF exits the Iron City with its second consecutive Birmingham Bowl title after a second consecutive heart-stopping Legion Field finish.

Texas Tech took a 34-31 lead on quarterback Nic Shimonek's 25-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Vasher with 1:31 remaining. Before that, Flowers had found Lakewood High alumnus Marquez Valdes-Scantling behind the Red Raiders secondary for a 64-yard touchdown with 4:26 to play.

The late theatrics stood in stark contrast to the game's outset.

An overcast morning of hearty gusts and sheets of rain gave way to dry game conditions, but the skies remained dreary.

So did the Bulls' offense, at least initially. In a game widely forecast as a showcase of two breakneck-paced offenses, the teams delivered more flatness than flair.

Showing none of the big-play sparkle it brandished in last month's 49-42 loss at UCF, the Bulls managed only 130 first-half yards. Their first touchdown, a 21-yard Flowers strike over the middle to McCants (six catches, 88 yards), didn't occur until the final minute of the half and was set up by a shanked Red Raiders punt.

Flowers exited the first half 4-of-14 for 42 yards, and gained only 15 yards on six runs. He fumbled on the second play of the second half, setting up Texas Tech's second touchdown of the day that gave the Red Raiders a 17-10 lead.

But while Flowers and Co. struggled, the Red Raiders were held in check primarily by senior nose guard Deadrin Senat, who had three sacks in the first half, two of which ended Red Raiders drives.

Two other Tech scoring threats were thwarted by interceptions, including safety Jaymon Thomas' pick of a deflected ball in his own end zone on third-and-goal.

The offense then picked up steam on its second possession of the second half, mounting a 75-yard scoring drive capped by Flowers' 17-yard touchdown pass to Darnell Salomon.