TAMPA, Fla. — Quinton Flowers threw for 178 yards and two touchdowns, helping South Florida open the season with a 56-20 rout of overmatched Towson on Saturday night.

The dual-threat quarterback threw TD passes of 43 yards to Darius Tice, and 51 yards to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. He also scored on runs of 5 and 7 yards, showing why he’s one of the reasons USF enters the year with heightened expectations of contending for its first American Athletic Conference championship after improving from four wins two seasons ago to eight in 2015.

Two-time AAC rushing champion Marlon Mack ran for 58 yards and a TD before sitting out the second half, ending a streak of five consecutive 100-yard performances. He banged his shoulder and was slow getting up after fumbling at the end of a 7-yard run; however, coach Willie Taggart said the junior who moved within 251 yards of USF’s career rushing record was fine after the game.

“I walked into the locker room and he told me he was good,” Taggart said. “He took a good hit. But he said: ‘I’m ok, coach.’ That was good to hear.”

Seven different players scored touchdowns for USF, which won seven of eight following a 1-3 start to finish with eight wins last season.

“We have a lot of weapons. We have to figure out how to use all of them,” Taggart said, adding “it’s good no one panicked when Marlon went down. We kept making plays.”

Red-shirt sophomore Morgan Mahalak, who spent two years at Oregon before transferring to FCS Towson, threw for 165 yards in his debut for the Tigers. His 56-yard completion to Christian Summers set up the first of two TD runs by Darius Victor.

THE TAKEAWAY

Towson: Opened the season against a FBS opponent for the fourth time in five years. And with Mahalak running the offense, the Tigers showed they’re more than capable of making plays against anyone, which should bode well as they try to build on last season’s success in the Colonial Athletic Association. Even better news, they won’t face another team this season that has the size, speed and quickness of USF.

South Florida: The Flowers-led “Gulf Coast Offense” was virtually unstoppable at times during last year’s stretch run, and the Bulls put up some impressive numbers again Saturday night. But they also learned there’s plenty of room for improvement. Towson wasn’t able to take advantage of mistakes that could prove costly down the road when the schedule gets tougher.

UP NEXT

Towson: The Tigers return home from their first appearance in the Sunshine State to open their Colonial Athletic Association schedule against Saint Francis.

South Florida: The Bulls face Northern Illinois at home before taking on Power Five conference opponents Syracuse and Florida State the following two weeks.