Saturday, 3 a.m.
The offense was wonderful.
The defense was woeful.
The victory was terrific. The struggles along the way were terrible.
So how would you look at USF's 52-45 victory over Navy? If you are Willie Taggart, you can't quibble with a victory over the No. 22-ranked Midshipmen.
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Who's going to grumble about the 629 yards of total offense? Still, a seven-point lead in a game you were ahead 28-0 isn't all wonderful, is it? And there was the 616 yards of total offense the team gave up.
“It was a great win for our football team. I’m really excited with the way our guys responded after last week,” said Bulls' coach Willie Taggart. “They came out and really executed very well offensively.”
For much of Friday night, the Bulls looked as if they were on their way to an impressive victory over Navy. They led 28-0 after one period after 42-14 at the half. Navy, however, came back strong in the final period to narrow the final score to six.
“Whenever you’re playing a team like Navy, you want them to play from behind,” Taggart said. “I think our game plan worked out pretty well for ourselves. We got up early, made them play from behind and it helped.”
The game continued two trends for the Bulls. First, the offense was good again; they've scored at least 38 points in every game but last week's loss to Tampa. Second, the defense sputtered; they've allowed at least 20 points in every game Northern Illinois.
USF threatened to blow Navy out early when Quinton Flowers ran 63 yards for a touchdown, D'Earnest Johnson ran 23 yards, Marlon Mack ran 85 yards and Elkanah Dillon caught a 41-yard score. Flowers, Johnson and Mack all had more than 100 yards rushing for the Bulls. Flowers had 176, Mack had 125 and Johnson had 107. The trio combined for five touchdowns.
For Flowers, it was his sixth career 100-yard rushing day. It was Mack's 18th.
The only thing that was going through my mind was every time we get the ball, just score. That’s what we did today,” Flowers said.
Flowers enters Saturday's play as the sixth-leading rusher and No. 1 among quarterbacks with 921 yards. Flowers also threw for 219 yards and two touchdowns. The Bulls scored touchdowns on their first six possessions before fumbling inside the Navy one.
Navy, however, scored 31 points in the fourth quarter to take some of the shine off the victory. Quarterback Will Worth, from Valrico, threw for 299 yards. He also ran for 129 yards and four touchdowns.
The game included 1,245 yards. USF had 629, including a school-record 412 yards rushing.
USF led by as many as 31 points. The game was as close as seven only when Navy scored on the final play of the game.
USF has next week off before playing at Memphis. Navy plays Notre Dame in Jacksonville on Saturday.