Quinton Flowers

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Brandon Doughty’s 3 TDs lead WKU to Miami Beach Bowl win

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Western Kentucky (12-2) may have started off slowly against South Florida (8-5) in he Miami Beach Bowl, but the Hilltoppers exploded in the second half. Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty passed three touchdowns in the third quarter as WKU outscored the Bulls 28-7 out of the halftime break en route to a 45-35 victory.

Wester Kentucky used big plays to lead the charge in the second half. Doughty completed a 69-yard pass to Nicholas Norris in the third quarter to take a 17-14 lead on South Florida. The two hooked up again a couple of minutes later for a 55-yard scoring strike. Doughty tossed a third touchdown late in the third quarter, this time to Jared Dangerfield from 28 yards ou to build a 38-21 lead heading to the fourth quarter.

South Florida was not quite down for the count though. In a span of four minutes, South Florida scored two touchdowns with Quinton Flowers passed and ran for a score to trim the Western Kentucky lead to 38-35, but with just over five minutes to play the Hilltoppers padded their lead to 45-35 with a 42-yard touchdown run by Anthony Wales.

Western Kentucky racked up over 600 yards of offense, with Dougthy throwing for 461 yards. South Florida’s offense had a productive day as well, putting together 543 yards of offense.

Western Kentucky is now 2-1 all-time in bowl games, including last year’s thriller against Central Michigan in the Bahamas Bowl. The Conference USA champions also defeated their former head coach, Willie Taggart. Western Kentucky will open the season on the road against Alabama on September 10. The Hilltoppers will also host Vanderbilt next September.

South Florida will have a chance to get off to a good start in 2016 with a home game against Towson. A home game against Northern Illinois and a road game at Syracuse will be good opportunities for some solid wins as well as South Florida could emerge as a trend team in the American athletic Conference. The Bulls also host Florida State next September. Watch out for these Bulls.

Miami Beach Bowl: South Florida defense cooling off explosive WKU

AP Photo/Chris O'Meara
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Conference USA champion Western Kentucky took a while to get going and appeared to be set to tie the Miami Beach Bowl at 14-14 before halftime, but a bad penalty and back-to-back sacks by South Florida’s defense assured the Bulls would keep a 14-10 halftime lead, and perhaps the momentum.

On first and goal from the six-yard line, Western Kentucky offensive lineman Forrest Lamp was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty, and the Bulls sacked WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty on the next two plays for a combined loss of  17 yards to drive WKU out of field goal range, leaving the Hilltoppers to punt the ball away instead.

Western Kentucky could go just seven yards on the first six plays of the game, but the first few possessions of the game for both teams were far from extraordinary. The teams exchanged punts and a turnover on downs on the first five drives of the game. South Florida finally got things going with Quinton Flowers rushing 12 yards for a touchdown to cap a 62-yard drive keyed by back-to-back completions for first downs from Flowers to Rodney Adams and Ryeshene Bronson.

Down 14-0, Western Kentucky finally found a spark with a Doughty pass to  for a 53-yard gain on the first play of a drive midway through the second quarter. Anthony Wales picked up the final 13 yards on the drive for a touchdown. The touchdown had to be upheld by a video review, because it appeared Wales lost control of the football as he crossed the goal line. The official video review led to upholding the call on the field.

Goal line cameras, people. Goal. Line. Cameras. You have the technology. Use it.

South Florida-Western Kentucky should be an early bowl treat

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Two weeks from today, a game that should be among the best bowls of the season will take place. It’s one to mark down on your office calendar to throw on WatchESPN, or if you’re lucky enough to get the week off, make a point to have on TV.

Western Kentucky and South Florida kick off in the W̶i̶l̶l̶i̶e̶ ̶T̶a̶g̶g̶a̶r̶t̶  Miami Beach Bowl at 2:30 p.m. ET on Monday, Dec. 21. This is a plea to anyone who likes fun football to find a way to watch this game.

Western Kentucky beat Southern Mississippi in the Conference USA Championship Game last weekend, capping off an 11-2 regular season in which Jeff Brohm’s Hilltoppers averaged 44.2 points per game (4th among FBS teams). Senior quarterback Brandon Doughty completed 71.8 percent of his passes (1st among FBS QBs) for 4,594 yards (2nd) and 45 touchdowns (1st). Junior running back Anthony Wales averaged 6.99 yards per carry (6th among FBS players with 100+ carries) in this pass-happy offense, which consistently fed junior receiver Taywan Taylor, who racked up 79 receptions (21st), 1,363 yards (4th) and 17 touchdowns (2nd).

And this isn’t necessarily a team that only looks good thanks to a weak C-USA schedule — SB Nation’s Bill Connelly’s S&P+ numbers rate WKU as the 11th-best team in FBS. The Hilltoppers’ offense ranks 1st in efficiency, seventh in finishing drives and 11th in explosiveness. This is a top-five passing offense and a top-30 rushing offense, one which scored fewer than 35 points only twice this year (against Vanderbilt and LSU).

On the other sideline is a South Florida team coached by Taggart — who quickly built a solid foundation at WKU from 2010-2012 — who steered his team to a massive turnaround this fall. The Bulls lost three games in a row in the first quarter of the season, and while the opponents were Florida State, Maryland and Memphis, becoming bowl-eligible looked like a difficult task.

After that losing streak, though, the Bulls ripped off wins in seven of their final eight games, with the only loss in there to a very good Navy team. A 44-23 win over Temple nearly upended Matt Rhule’s bid for an conference title game appearance, and a 65-27 stomping of Cincinnati asserted South Florida as one of the better teams in the AAC.

South Florida is very much geared toward running the ball with sophomore running back Marlon Mack (193 carries, 1,273 yards, eight TDs) and quarterback Quinton Flowers (157 carries, 969 yards, 10 TDs). But Flowers has a penchant for throwing for big plays, too, throwing a dozen passes for 40 or more yards with 21 touchdowns against eight interceptions.

Both WKU and USF have decent-to-mediocre defenses — WKU’s ranks 53rd in S&P+, while USF’s is 39th — that may not provide a whole lot of resistance against the powerful offenses in this game. It’ll be played at Marlins Park during the afternoon on a Monday — insert your baseball joke here, mine is that the poor Marlins, with Giancarlo Stanton only playing half a season, hit the second-fewest home runs in the majors this summer — but from afar looks like one of the most entertaining games of bowl season.

 

USF keeps pressure on Temple as UCF joins infamous club

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UCF became the 17th team in college football history to go a full season without celebrating one victory. That adds up to a lot of free bar for patrons at one local establishment this season. UCF’s 0-12 disaster of a season was dealt a final blow by rival South Florida, who tuned up the Knights by a score of 44-3 Thursday night in Orlando. While UCF joined a list no school ever wants to be a part of, USF made sure the pressure will be on Temple to get by Connecticut Saturday afternoon. A loss by Tempel against the Huskies, who just toppled Houston last week, and it will be the Bulls who play for the American Athletic Conference championship next week at either Navy or Houston. The winner of the Navy-Houston game Friday will host the conference championship game.

USF ends its regular season having won four straight games, the last three coming in blowout fashion. After losing at Navy 29-17, USF rallied with a 22-17 victory at East Carolina and followed that up with a decisive 44-23 victory against Temple, a 65-27 thrashing of Cincinnati and last night’s 44-3 demolishing of UCF. Bulls quarterback Quinton Flowers pass for three touchdowns and rushed for two more. USF outgained UCF 455-203 and the defense forced two turnovers in the win. Because USF defeated Temple, the Bulls own a head-to-head tiebreaker that comes into play in the AAC East if Temple loses one more game for an identical conference record. A Temple win against UConn clinches the division for the Owls, who would also play on the road against either Navy or Houston.

UCF is the first winless team in the FBS since Miami Ohio and Georgia State in 2013. It is also the second time since 2000 UCF has gone through a full season without a win. The Knights also had losses pile up against them in 2004, when the Knights were part fo the MAC. UCF’s season saw head coach George O’Leary step down earlier in the season, so the program is now turning a page to find a new head coach. There is still some potential to build something at UCF. After all, this program was in and won the Fiesta Bowl just two seasons ago against Big 12 champion Baylor. The job should be an attractive one for a number of candidates as well.

Dalvin Cook helps No. 11 FSU overcome sloppy performance vs. USF

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Florida State running back Dalvin Cook was the star of the day for the No. 11 Seminoles (2-0) in a 34-14 win over visiting USF (1-1). Cook rushed for 266 yards and three touchdowns to lead the ACC contenders past a sluggish first half and sloppy play all around.

Cook’s rushing total was the second most yards ever by a Florida State running back in a single game. Florida State should be thankful for having him on the field today. Florida State’s offense did nothing in the first half of the game. Quarterback Everett Golson completed just one of his nine first half attempts, but he, along with the rest of the team, seemed to turn things around after halftime. Golson ended his afternoon with 163 yards and a touchdown while completing 14 of 26 passes. Golson made some bad decisions at times but managed to avoid having a mistake cost him too much.

Florida State came out of the halftime break with three scores in the third quarter. Cook ran once for a 24-yard score, kicker Roberto Aguayo nailed a 3-yard field goal and Golson completed a touchdown pass to Jesus Wilson from 23 yards out. That was enough to pretty much seal the victory heading into the fourth quarter. USF would trim the lead down to 10-points early in the fourth quarter with a Quinton Flowers touchdown pass to D’Ernest Johnson for a quick 71-yard score, but the Seminoles tacked on more points tokeep the game out of reach.

Florida State will jump into ACC play next week when they head north to play at Boston College. The primetime match-up could be a tricky one for the Seminoles, as Steve Adazio has his Eagles at 2-0 out of the gates. Of course, those two wins have come at the expense of two FCS opponents, so how well will Boston College really be ready to step things up next week in terms of level of competition?

USF will be back on the road against a power conference opponent next week. The Bulls head to Maryland of the Big Ten for the second game in a home-and-home series. Maryland won a 24-17 game last season in Tampa between the two schools.