South Florida too much for No. 22 Navy

Fred Goodall
Associated Press
South Florida QB Quinton Flowers takes off on a second-quarter run Friday night.

Tampa, Fla. — South Florida beat No. 22 Navy at its own game.

Quinton Flowers rushed for 176 yards and two touchdowns, and the Bulls scored on their first six possessions Friday night to build a 28-point halftime lead before holding off the Midshipmen 52-45 to get back on track in the American Athletic Conference.

“We ran into a buzzsaw,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “They just had so many things going. … We sputtered early on offense and that compounded the problems for us.”

Rebounding from a 16-point loss to Temple that cost the Bulls (7-2, 4-1) sole possession of first place in the AAC’s East Division, Flowers keyed a balanced attack that amassed 629 yards total offense against an overmatched Navy defense that yielded TDs on six of USF’s seven first-half possessions to fall behind 42-14.

“Great win for us,” USF coach Willie Taggart said. “I’m really excited the way our guys responded to how we performed last week.”

Will Worth ran for four touchdowns for Navy (5-2, 4-1), which leads the AAC West and entered game as the only team without a loss in league play after beating then-No. 6 Houston and Memphis to nudge into the Top 25.

Flowers joined Marlon Mack in topping 100 yards rushing for the third time in four games. The dual-threat quarterback scored on runs of 1 and 63 yards, while also throwing for 219 and two more TDs.

Mack scored on an 85-yard run in the opening quarter and finished with 125 on 11 carries for the 18th 100-yard performance of his career, fifth this season.

“Our guys accepted the challenge. We needed to run the ball well and score early,” Taggart said. “You want (Navy) to have to play from behind.”

Worth rushed for 129 yards and scored on runs of 4, 1, 1 and 2 yards for Navy, which was forced to throw the ball more than the Midshipmen are accustomed, with Worth going 15 of 27 for 299 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

The senior quarterback from Valrico, Florida — a short drive from the USF campus — set up one of his TDs with a 42-yard completion to Toneo Gulley. The Midshipmen attempted more than eight passes in a game for only the third time this season, finishing with 616 yards total offense, including 317 rushing.

Worth’s 9-yard TD pass to Darryl Bonner came on the game’s final play.

“We gave them a 28-point lead,” Worth said, “and it’s tough to come back against a talented team like that.”

USF took a half-game lead over Temple in the East standings. Navy goes out of conference against Notre Dame next week, then faces Tulsa, East Carolina and SMU down the stretch in conference play.

“They got the ‘W’ but there’s a possibility that we will play them again,” Worth said. “But we have Notre Dame next week and we have to bounce back and get focused on them.”