SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Being down 17-0 to Syracuse was no problem for South Florida on Saturday. Not with its quick-strike offense. And not with the Bulls playing in the Carrier Dome, one of its favorite road venues.
“It’s a great environment, we just had to block out the crowd, come out and play football,” said receiver Rodney Adams, who scored three touchdowns. “The turf felt like a speed track. I liked it.”
The rest of his teammates did, too, especially after the first quarter when the Bulls (3-0) found themselves trailing big. All the Bulls did the rest of the way was outscore the Orange (1-2) 45-3 for a 45-20 win. The victory moved South Florida to 5-0 at the Dome.
“It was a slow start, but we had to just calm down and play football like we normally do,” Adams said. “That’s exactly what we did. Coach (Willie) Taggart preached about facing adversity. We calmed down and just played football.”
Syracuse dominated the first 15 minutes but its offense stalled and defense yielded quick scores the rest of the way. The Bulls stormed back to win in a laugher.
“We’re got hit by a storm,” said running back Marlon Mack, who added two scores,” but Coach T said we just need to fight back and stay calm.”
“We knew we’d face adversity and I wanted to see how this 2016 team handled it,” Taggart said. “They didn’t flinch. They (Syracuse) threw the first punch and our guys kind of took it, then our guys settled down and thing started to really take off for us.”
“I thought the first part of the game we were able to do the things we wanted to do,” Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. “I thought we started off well. Once the second quarter, third quarter, second half (started), we weren’t quite able to finish. I thought we could really win that game and I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t.”
The Bulls, who have won 10 of their last 12 games, gained at least 200 yards on the ground for the eighth-straight game, led by Mack’s 115. South Florida has scored 149 points this season. The Bulls had four scoring drives under two minutes
Despite the lopsided score, the Orange outgained the Bulls 549-456 and had 30 first downs to the Bulls’ 20. But things weren’t close on the scoreboard as the Bulls kept the Orange out of the end zone in the final 45 minutes despite a stifling Dome and despite Syracuse running 105 plays, which shattered the school single-game record and tied the most in ACC history.
“Heat? We live in Florida,” Taggart said. “It was a little cool in there today. We just tried to keep our guys fresh, and rotate them in and out the best we could.”
Taggart said his defense made some basic adjustments after the first quarter.
“Tackling, tackling, tackling,” he said. “There were a lot of missed tackles early and our guys did a better job of tackling. Things turned around for us.”
D’Ernest Johnson returned a punt 84 yards to score for USF.
Quinton Flowers was 12 of 24 for 183 yards passing for the Bulls and rushed for 51 more. Eric Dungey was 32-for-48 for 350 yards and two TDs for Syracuse. Dontae Strickland led SU’s ground game with 127 yards. Erv Philips and Amba Etta-Tawo had 10 and eight receptions, respectively, for Syracuse.
Playing with a depleted secondary and a defense that was torched by Louisville a week ago, Syracuse dominated the opening quarter, outgaining USF 214-64 yards. The Orange registered 12 first downs in the quarter to USF’s three and scored on pass plays of 24 and 47 yards from Dungey to Philips and Brisly Estime, and a 40-yard field goal by Cole Murphy.
USF: Mack was held pretty much in check by the Orange — at least until late in the third quarter. Mack, who gained 184 yards against SU a year ago, had 55 yards on five carries in the first half, but 40 of those came on one play. He scampered untouched for a 52-yard touchdown late in the third quarter and now has 14 100-yard games, a South Florida record.
SYRACUSE: The Orange was playing without three-quarters of its starting secondary. Antwan Cordy and Juwan Dowels, who were both injured against Louisville, are out for the season with forearm and knee injuries, respectively, and Kielan Whitner also sat out Saturday.
USF: The Bulls host in-state foe Florida State next Saturday. Expect the Seminoles to be smarting from this week’s drubbing at the hands of Louisville
SYRACUSE: The Orange goes out of conference for a road game Saturday against former Big East rival UConn.