Through the first two quarters of play in the Birmingham Bowl, South Carolina is getting a healthy taste of Lamar Jackson Lite.
In the first 30 minutes of what is a 29-14 halftime lead for USF, Quinton Flowers did an uncanny impression of the reigning Heisman winner, accounting for all four of the Bulls’ touchdowns and 267 yards of total offense. Three of those scores and 67 of the yards came on the ground, which is not surprising as Flowers’ 1,425 yards rushing this season was second to Jackson’s 1,538 amongst FBS quarterbacks.
The junior also completed 18-of-22 passes for 200 yards.
Also nearly perfect was Flowers’ Gamecocks counterpart, Jake Bentley, who was as impressive in the passing portion of the game as the USF quarterback was in the running/passing phases. The true freshman completed 15 of his 19 passes in the half — after missing on his first two attempts — for 198 yards and both of USC’s touchdowns, a 25-yarder to Hayden Hurst early in the second quarter that temporarily brought the ‘Cocks to within one score and a second, with 1:12 left in the second quarter, that again brought them to within eight –temporarily, as it turned out again, as Flowers connected with D'Ernest Johnson on fourth down on a 37-yard touchdown pass with :07 left in the half.
South Carolina will receive the kickoff to open the second half.
South Florida scored a touchdown on the very first drive of the game and didn’t stop until the final minute of the first half in a wild, high-scoring affair on Friday night that dealt Navy their first American Athletic Conference loss of the season, 52-45.
Bulls quarterback Quinton Flowers appeared to be fully healthy after limping off last week in a loss to Temple, throwing for 219 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for a team-leading 176 yards and two scores. He pretty much picked apart the overmatched Midshipmen, leading six straight touchdown drives to open the game that included two 40-plus yard plays to find the end zone in the first quarter alone.
His counterpart in the backfield Marlon Mack wasn’t too shabby either, scoring an 85-yard touchdown on his way to 125 yards on the night with just 11 carries. Backup tailback D'Ernest Johnson also found plenty of running room as he topped the century mark on the ground as well and added two touchdowns for good measure.
While USF did have over 600 yards of total offense and controlled the game pretty much from the opening whistle, Navy did claw their way back into the game by averaging over seven yards a play for the night and scoring three fourth quarter touchdowns. Quarterback Will Worth had a pretty great night passing for an option quarterback (15-27, 299 yards, one touchdown, one interception) in addition to leading the team in rushing and scoring four times.
The win kept the Bulls’ alive in the AAC East and moved them to 7-2 on the season. They still will need Temple to lose again if they want to make it to the conference title game but the rebound effort at home was impressive all things considered.
For Navy meanwhile, the loss didn’t mean much in the AAC West standings as they remain atop them and ahead of Memphis, Tulsa and Houston. It does drop them to 5-2 on the season ahead of their annual showdown with Notre Dame but they will probably enter the contest as significant favorites given the way they played on Friday night.