The 2017 season may not have checked off all of the goals for USF (11-2), but Charlie Strong and the Bulls have reason to celebrate at the end of the season after winning a wildly entertaining Birmingham Bowl with a 38-34 victory over Texas Tech (6-7) on Saturday afternoon. USF quarterback Quinton Flowers was the hero fo the day after putting the Bulls on his back in the second half, shrugging aside a woeful first half to pull USF from behind for the win.
Flowers ended his day with an MVP performance with 311 passing yards and four touchdowns and 106 rushing yards. It was Flowers who had to step things up in the fourth quarter, leading the Bulls to three touchdowns in the final quarter by using his feet and his arm to work the late game heroics.
Early in the fourth quarter, and just one play after an instant replay confirmed a call on the field marking the ball shy of the end zone, USF tried muscling their way across the goal line only to be overmatched by Texas Tech’s defensive effort to keep Darius Tice just out of the end zone on fourth down.
The Texas Tech stop preserved a seven-point advantage, but the battle of field position would still end up helping USF. After forcing a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, USF took over at the Texas Tech 43-yard line and worked their way into the end zone, this time ending the drive with Flowers running off to the right side to find a clear path for a game-tying touchdown.
Texas Tech took a 27-24 lead with just over five minutes to play with a 33-yard field goal by Clayton Hatfield, setting the stage for USF quarterback Quinton Flowers to try and deliver some last-minute heroics in his final college football game. Flowers needed just two plays before giving the Bulls a 31-27 lead on a 64-yard touchdown pass to a streaking Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Texas Tech answered with a touchdown of their own, with T.J. Vasher somehow getting left wide open in the end zone for an easy touchdown pass from Nic Shimonek.
But the Red Raiders left Flowers and the Bulls too much time to strike back, and strike back they most certainly did. Flowers once again delivered the heroics with a key 21-yard run on a 3rd and 10 and followed that up with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Tyre McCants to go up 38-34 after the extra point.
The legacy of Quinton Flowers at USF will be one that will be remembered fondly, even if it never saw a trip to a BCS or New Years Six bowl game. But Flowers will leave with a handful of team records and his shoes will be big to fill for whoever is next in line in Tampa. After coming up just shy of an elusive AAC championship after a wild shootout loss against UCF in the regular season finale, it is fitting to see Flowers go out having led his team to a wild back-and-forth victory in a bowl game.
For three quarters, it appeared as though Texas Tech may get by the game using its defense, going against the grain of what is typically expected from a Texas Tech team. All of that crumbled in the fourth quarter, however, despite the goal line stand highlighted above. USF had over 400 yards of offense in the second half after a lackluster first half showing, and the Bulls edges the Red Raiders in first downs with 27 to Texas Tech’s 26.
The AAC improves to 2-1 in the bowl season with the win after Temple took care of FIU on Thursday night. Texas Tech gets the Big 12 off to a 0-1 start in the bowl season with the next games played on Tuesday by West Virginia (vs. Utah in Heart of Dallas Bowl) and Kansas State (vs. UCLA in Cactus Bowl).
Texas Tech’s 2018 season will open with a neutral site game in Houston against Ole Miss of the SEC on Sept. 1, 2018. USF will begin the 2018 season at home on Sept. 1 against FCS opponent Elon. The Bulls will then host Georgia Tech and visit Illinois the following two weeks.