Annihilation. Obliteration. Demolition. Evisceration. Curb-stomping. Pick any word or phrase you want, and that’s exactly what South Florida did to Syracuse in the 2023 Boca Raton Bowl.
The Bulls absolutely steamrolled the Orange in a 45-0 shutout, registering their first bowl victory since 2017 in Tuesday night’s standalone contest. South Florida clinched its first winning record since 2018, finishing year one of the Alex Golesh era 7-6 after picking up just four aggregate wins in the prior three seasons.
South Florida dominated every facet of the game to complete its first shutout since 2005 which coincidentally, was also over Syracuse in a 27-0 result. This time, the Bulls out-gained the Orange 407-159 and scored a touchdown in all three phases — offense, defense, and special teams — in their most decisive victory over FBS competition since 2007.
South Florida launched the scoring rampage in the middle of the first quarter with a touchdown connection from quarterback Byrum Brown to Sean Atkins. In an efficient 214-yard aerial performance, Brown delivered three touchdown strikes including two to Atkins. The redshirt freshman reset the single-season passing touchdowns record for the program with 26, and he also extended his lead as the Bulls’ single-season passing yards leader. Simultaneously, Atkins became the first 1,000-yard receiver in South Florida history, finishing with 93 yards and two touchdowns to conclude his college career. The pairing’s final touchdown connection transpired on a 4th and 2 in the third quarter where Brown floated an easy delivery to a completely uncovered Atkins for a 35-yard score.
The Bulls didn’t even need the offense to take the field for 14 of their 45 points. In the late first quarter, Syracuse mishandled a snap on a fake goal attempt and tried to salvage the play by running an option. However, South Florida foiled the Orange’s plans and popped the ball loose into the hands of Aamaris Brown, who sprinted for a 64-yard touchdown. Then in the waning seconds before halftime, Daquan Evans flew in unblocked on a safety blitz and blindsided the quarterback for a forced fumble. Defensive end Tramel Logan scooped it up for a 61-yard return, tying the FBS lead with his third defensive touchdown of 2023.
The two other touchdowns were courtesy of wide receiver Khafre Brown and running back Nay’Quan Wright, who assisted with the full-fledged decimation on the scoreboard.
How bad did things get for Syracuse? By halftime, the Orange had -15 rushing yards and fumbled five times total, thrusting themselves into a 31-0 deficit. Syracuse started 0-of-12 on third down and finished 1-of-17 in that category while also failing two of its three fourth down attempts. Even star running back LeQuint Allen was limited to two rushing yards on 20 attempts after finishing the regular season with over 1,000 yards as the ACC’s third-leading rusher.
With starting quarterback Garrett Shrader out for the remainder of the season after recently undergoing shoulder surgery, Syracuse rotated between Braden Davis and tight end Dan Villari in the all-important position. Lacking Shrader, the Orange struggled mightily in moving the sticks and threw two interceptions, losing the turnover battle 4-1 Tuesday night. After 60 minutes of disastrous football, Syracuse suffered its first shutout since 2020 and its most lopsided defeat since 2017. The Orange finished 2023 with a 6-7 record, losing seven of their final nine games leading into the Fran Brown’s tenure. Interim head coach Nunzio Campanile led Syracuse in Boca Raton, but Brown now officially takes the reins as 2024 approaches.
On the other sideline, a celebration commenced with a green Gatorade bath. The Boca Raton Bowl couldn’t have been a more perfect night for South Florida. With a first-year head coach, the program finished 7-6 to snap its four-season streak of below .500 records, sending accomplished seniors like Sean Atkins and Daquan Evans out on top. Complete with their seventh bowl trophy since 2006, Tuesday night in Boca Raton will be one the green and gold remember for a long time.