TAMPA, Fla. — Quinton Flowers threw for 350 yards and four touchdowns to lead South Florida to a 48-17 rout of Northern Illinois on Saturday night.
With two-time American Athletic Conference rushing leader Marlon Mack sitting out after spending the past week in the concussion protocol, Flowers accounted for 403 of his team’s 658 yards total offense while tossing TD passes of 73 yards to Ryeshene Bronson, 26 yards to Rodney Adams, 13 yards to D’Ernest Johnson and 6 yards to Chris Barr.
The dual-threat quarterback also rushed for 53 yards on 11 carries, helping the Bulls (2-0) — preseason favorites to win the American’s East Division — remain unbeaten through two games for the first time in four seasons under coach Willie Taggart.
“2-0! It’s been awhile,” Taggart, 14-23 in his first three seasons with the Bulls, said. “Climbing is easier than hanging on.”
Northern Illinois quarterback Drew Hare was carted off the field with an apparent left leg injury midway through the third quarter. The redshirt senior missed the last five games of 2015 with a right Achilles injury.
Backup Ryan Graham threw an 11-yard TD pass to Aregeros Turner, who also scored on a 4 run for the Huskies, who lost their season opener at Wyoming 40-34 in triple overtime.
Northern Illinois: The Huskies have played in six straight Mid-American Conference championships games and also appeared in a league-record eight consecutive bowl games, which is to say the most important part of their season is still ahead of them. The 0-2 start will mean little if NIU can rebound — especially defensively — to make another strong run in conference play.
South Florida: Taggart has his team playing with confidence and swagger. The Bulls have won nine of 11 games dating to last season, improving to 2-0 for the first time since 2012, when they went on lose nine of 10 and finish 3-9. The last time USF won three straight to begin a season was 2011, when it dropped seven of eight following a 4-0 start to wind up 5-7. Houston may be the team to beat for the American title, however Taggart’s bunch looks as strong as any bidding to represent the East in the league’s championship game.
NEXT MAN UP
Mack led the American in rushing the past two seasons. He had a streak of five consecutive 100-yard performances ended when he sat out the entire second half of USF’s season opener against Towson, finishing with 58 yards. Darius Tice replaced him in the starting lineup Saturday night and gained 120 yards on 19 attempts. D’Ernest Johnson shared the workload, finishing with 87 yards on 16 attempts.
“It was good to get so many guys get involved and contribute,” Taggart said.
TRACKING THE HUSKIES:
A week after scoring three touchdowns and leading NIU with 144 yards receiving and 82 yards rushing, NIU’s Kenny Golladay was limited to four receptions for 43 yards and no TDs. Hare, meanwhile, completed 13 of 20 passes for 96 yards, no TDs and no interceptions before being injured when he was nearly tackled in his own end zone with 7:43 remaining in the third quarter. Graham was 9 of 15 for 65 yards, one TD and no interceptions.
“I don’t know the diagnosis on Hare,” NIU coach Rod Carey said, “Right now, we’ll move forward with Ryan.”
Northern Illinois: Huskies get a break from the road, where they played consecutive games to begin a season for the first time since 2013, and return to DeKalb, Illinois for their home opener against San Diego State.
“It’ll be good to be home,” Carey said. “We’ve got to a bunch of things to correct and move forward.”
South Florida: Begins the tougher portion of its non-conference schedule, traveling to Syracuse next Saturday before returning home to face No. 3 Florida State in two weeks.
“Now we get to see if we can take this show on the road and do what we do at home,” Taggart said.