SMU(1-6, 0-3 AAC) was coming off a 4-game losing streak coming into Saturday's contest with USF (4-3, 3-2 AAC), desperately needing a win to gain momentum before a brutal second half of their season. USF is looking to stay competitive with the hot teams of the American Athletic Conference. Well, USF made a statement today on both sides of the ball.
USF was without their leading rusher Marlon Mack, who was 4th in the conference in rushing yards, to a hamstring injury suffered last week against against UConn. Sophomore QB Quentin Flowers did more than enough to compensate for Mack's absence, finishing with 142 yards rushing and a TD in the 1st half alone.
USF's defense was felt early by Junior QB Matt Davis. The first SMU offensive drive of the game ended with a strip sack on their own 21-yard-line less than one minute into the 1st quarter by Senior Safety Jamie Byrd. Byrd would finish with two sacks on the night, which is his second multiple sack game in a row.
SMU continued to trip over their own feet, showing sparks of offensive momentum and then quickly earning flags to freeze that momentum. In fact, running backs Xavier Jones and Braeden West were averaging almost 5 yards-per-carry most of the 1st half. If it wasn't penalties derailing drives, it was one of FIVE fumbles. SMU is better than they were a year ago, but being better than the worst team in college football doesn't equal wins in the AAC.
The contest started with an anemic display of offense from both teams, combining for 40 total yards halfway through the 2nd quarter.
And then Flowers happened.
With the Bull's passing attack being nonexistent (just 30 yards passing in the 1st half) Flowers took over the game in a rare rushing performance that broke the school rushing record by a QB, previously held by Matt Grothe's 146-yard effort against UConn in 2007.
Let's look at Flowers in action:
Helicopter style points.
Flowers would finish with 201 and 3 touchdowns rushing, along with 97 yards passing with zero interceptions.
USF looks forward to tough road match-ups coming up on their schedule to secure bowl eligibility. Next week they head to Annapolis to take on the Navy Midshipmen, who is undefeated against AAC foes. Then take on a middling ECU team that gave undefeated Temple fits this week.
SMU conversely, is just hoping to survive the next two weeks without losing all hope. Luckily their contests are at home against Tulsa next week, and then #22 Temple. Ouch.
USF showed that they can find a way to win if the need arises. Their defense showed pressure most the game against a hapless SMU team, whose best receiver Courtland Sutton posted only 56 yards receiving, but was able to haul in a single TD when it didn't matter. Byrd will need to stay aggressive and continue harassing quarterbacks with both his coverage and blitzing skills.
The buzz around SMU is that their team has a new attitude this season after June Jones hit the road last season. The problem is, that their production on the field hasn't shown it. DFW is a recruiting hotbed, but for them to have a chance of competing with TCU, Oklahoma, and the vast amount of teams recruiting in the Metroplex, they'll have to put together a big win or two.