South Florida survived a bit of a scare in the season opener last week and hopes to make things a little easier when it hosts FCS member Stony Brook on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium. The 21st-ranked Bulls gave up the game’s first 16 points at San Jose State last Saturday before rallying for a 42-22 victory behind a strong ground attack and an improving defense that forced three turnovers.
“It’s good that you have a good game like this, so now the guys know that there’s improvement to be made,” first-year USF coach Charlie Strong told reporters. “… We can’t be complacent.” Bulls senior quarterback Quinton Flowers hopes to improve off a game in which he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes, but threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score while totaling almost 300 yards. USF will look to continue churning out first downs on the ground against Stony Brook after compiling 315 rushing yards as seniors D’Ernest Johnson and Darius Tice combined for 193 and Flowers added another 70. The Seawolves of the Colonial Athletic Association, who lost their final four games last season, are expected to do the same as 12th-year coach Chuck Priore told the team’s website recently that his corps of running backs is the strength of the team.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, ESPN3. LINE: Off
STONY BROOK (2016: 5-6): Senior Stacey Bedell, who led the team with 698 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing in 2016, joins juniors Donald Liotine and Jordan Gowins in a potent backfield with All-CAA lineman Timon Parris paving the way. Junior Joe Carbone (three TD passes, 12 interceptions last year) returns at quarterback for the Seawolves, but he will be pushed by redshirt freshman Tyquell Fields. There is also decent depth at receiver with senior Ray Bolden (37 catches, 536 yards in 2016) as the top target while junior wide-out Donavin Washington (28, 244 in 2015) returns after missing most of last year to injury.
SOUTH FLORIDA (1-0): Sterlin Gilbert, who came with Strong from Texas to be the new offensive coordinator, has installed an attack with a faster tempo and it showed as the Bulls ran a school-record 101 plays in the opener. “It gets to the point where you get the defense very tired, and that’s what you like to see in a defense,” Flowers told reporters. “You pick’em apart and keep moving. … Sometimes to DBs, they get so locked into the run and before you know it, we can take a big shot.” Ronnie Hoggins led the Bulls with eight tackles Saturday while fellow defensive backs Devin Abraham and Mazzi Wilkins each picked off a pass along with linebacker Nico Sawtelle.
1. The Bulls have scored at least 30 points in 18 consecutive games, dating back to the 2015 season, and have won six straight contests.
2. Stony Brook is 1-7 in eight games against FBS opponents, including a 59-14 setback against USF in 2010.
3. USF senior WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling led the way with six catches for 91 yards in the season opener.
PREDICTION: South Florida 55, Stony Brook 14