GREENVILLE, N.C. -- Quarterback Quinton Flowers and No. 18 South Florida turned in a dominant second-half performance Saturday afternoon in rolling to a 61-31 American Athletic Conference victory over East Carolina.
Flowers passed for 160 yards and a touchdown and added 93 yards on the ground and another score as the Bulls extended their win streak to 10, the nation’s third-longest. South Florida also eclipsed 30 points for the 22nd straight game, just one shy of Oregon’s all-time record in the AP Poll era (1936).
South Florida took a 31-24 lead to the half then buried the Pirates with a stifling defense and big-play offense for a 30-7 advantage in the second half. ECU has been outscored 129-52 in the second half this season and given up at least 56 points in three of five games.
South Florida rushed for 390 yards on the way to a total of 575 yards. ECU has allowed at least 575 in all five of its games this season.
Flowers had plenty of help on offense. D‘Ernest John rushed for 111 yards on 16 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns, becoming the 11th 100-yard rusher in the last nine games against ECU. Receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling caught six passes for 94 yards and a touchdown and also had two carries for 80 yards, including a 75-yard score on a jet sweep.
South Florida’s defense, after giving up 279 yards in the first half, limited the Pirates to 133 in the second half. The Bulls’ defense came up with a pair of interceptions for the fifth straight game, giving them a nation-best 14 for the year and 16 takeaways overall.
Quarterback Thomas Sirk kept the Pirates in it for a half and finished 20 of 43 for 302 yards with a pair of touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed for 87 yards on 18 carries and two scores.
The Bulls scored on two of three first-quarter possessions and also got a 43-yard interception return by Auggie Sanchez to lead 21-10 -- the second time ECU has surrendered 21 points in the first quarter this season. The lead grew to 24-10 on a 37-yard field goal by Emilio Nadelman at the 12:13 mark of the second quarter, but the persistent Pirates hung around.
Sirk converted a fourth down with an 11-yard pass to Davon Grayson then capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 13-yard run to make it 24-17.
Valdes-Scantling streaked 75 yards on a jet sweep on the Bulls’ next play for a 31-17 lead, but ECU consumed the final 5:01 of the half and scored on Sirk’s 3-yard jump pass to tight end Stephen Baggett as time expired.
Flowers, who was just 2-of-7 passing for 42 yards in the first half, heated up early in the second, connecting on six of his first seven for 90 yards in directing two scoring drive. He zipped a 14-yard pass to Tyre McCants for a 38-24 lead then answered ECU’s only second-half score with a 4-yard pass to Valdes-Scantling.
Nadelman booted a 28-yard field goal for a 48-21 lead, then Darius Tice and Johnson tacked on fourth-quarter rushing touchdowns.
NOTES: South Florida QB Quinton Flowers, already the school’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns, reached more milestones on Saturday. His 93 yards rushing gives him 3,099 for his career, and his 253 total yards gives him 9,042. He also recorded his 12th career rushing touchdown, tying for second in school history with Andre Hall. ... East Carolina is 2-13 in its last 15 games with both wins coming against Connecticut. ... The Pirates have scored in 247 consecutive games, the 11th longest streak in the nation. ... USF rushed for 390 yards, compiling at least 150 yards for the 23rd straight game, the longest streak in the nation. ... The Bulls have scored at least 30 points in 22 consecutive games, matching Oklahoma State and Hawaii for second most in the AP Poll era (1936). Oregon holds the record of 23 in a row. ... ECU is just one of four FBS teams with three active receivers with at least 100 receptions after Saturday’s game -- Davon Grayson (106), Jimmy Williams (100) and Quay Johnson (100).