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USF takes big lead in conference game, holds on to beat Navy

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It started out as a stroll in the park.

Then USF almost got mugged.

For much of Friday night, the Bulls looked as if they were on their way to an impressive victory over American Conference foe Navy. They led 28-0 after one period and 42-14 at the half. Navy, however, came back strong in the final period to narrow the final score to seven.

“It was a great win for our football team. I’m really excited with the way our guys responded after last week,” said Bulls’ coach Willie Taggart. “They came out and really executed very well offensively.

“Whenever you’re playing a team like Navy, you want them to play from behind. I think our game plan worked out pretty well for ourselves. We got up early, made them play from behind and it helped.”

The game continued two trends for the Bulls. First, the offense was good again; they’ve scored at least 38 points in every game but last week’s loss to Temple. Second, the defense sputtered; they’ve allowed at least 20 points in every game except Northern Illinois.

USF threatened to blow Navy out early when Quinton Flowers ran 63 yards for a touchdown, D’Earnest Johnson ran 23 yards, Marlon Mack ran 85 yards and Elkanah Dillon caught a 41-yard score. Flowers, Johnson and Mack all had more than 100 yards rushing for the Bulls. Flowers had 176, Mack had 125 and Johnson had 107. The trio combined for five touchdowns.

For Flowers, it was his sixth career 100-yard rushing day. It was Mack’s 18th.

The only thing that was going through my mind was every time we get the ball, just score. That’s what we did today,” Flowers said.

Flowers enters Saturday’s play as the sixth-leading rusher and No. 1 among quarterbacks with 921 yards. Flowers also threw for 219 yards and two touchdowns. The Bulls scored touchdowns on their first six possessions before fumbling inside the Navy one.

Navy, however, scored 31 points in the fourth quarter to take some of the shine off the victory. Quarterback Will Worth, from Valrico, threw for 299 yards. He also ran for 129 yards and four touchdowns.

The game included 1,245 yards. USF had 629, including a school-record 412 yards rushing.

USF led by as many as 31 points. The game was as close as seven only when Navy scored on the final play of the game.

USF has next week off before playing at Memphis. Navy plays Notre Dame in Jacksonville on Saturday.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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