TAMPA — They've pulled it off with offensive fizz and defensive flatness, and vice versa. They've achieved it on North Dale Mabry and neutral sites. They've attained it sloppily and convincingly.
But the style points don't matter — yet. For nearly a year, the game-by-game numerators have varied for USF, but going into Thursday's matchup with Temple, victory had remained the common denominator.
Thursday, the Bulls were seeking vindication — and a new program standard — against the Owls. And they got it with a school-record ninth win in a row, 43-7. They broke a record set during the 2006-07 season.
And it wasn't the only milestone reached. In the second quarter, on a flashy 22-yard jaunt into the end zone, QB Quinton Flowers became USF's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns with his 33rd, surpassing the mark held by current Indianapolis Colts RB Marlon Mack. Flowers added one more rushing score in the fourth quarter.
The Bulls' showing couldn't have come at a better time for them, playing Temple — the last team they lost to, 46-30 11 months ago — before a prime-time ESPN audience.
"What it does, across the country it gives people a chance to really see our program," coach Charlie Strong said this week. "Then when you have an explosive player like Quinton (Flowers), it gives (the country) a chance to see just how good he is."
Nichols puts USF on top
Though the USF defense focused on stopping a familiar foe on the ground, Bulls DB Deatrick Nichols made the Owls think twice about moving the ball through the air. Nichols picked off Temple QB Logan Marchi twice in the first half, boosting USF to tops in the NCAA with 10 interceptions on the season.
Early in the first quarter, Nichols made a diving grab for his first interception, setting up a 44-yard USF field goal and tying USF with Central Michigan as the nation's interception leaders.
In the second quarter, Marchi, backed up in his end zone, was picked off again by Nichols, who put USF alone at the top. Devin Abraham and Nico Sawtelle added to the total with one each, and USF finished the game with 12 interceptions for the season.
Homecoming for local talent
USF's roster is filled top to bottom with hometown talent, including 22 players who went to high school in Hillsborough County.
Thursday, one more familiar face took the field at Raymond James Stadium.
Temple WR Ventell Bryant graduated from Jefferson High in 2014. In a night of limited success by the Temple offense, Bryant tallied two receptions for 13 yards, both in the first half.
Bryant was a standout for the Dragons, recording 756 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior.