South Florida Bulls

USF makes its living with ‘9 to 5’ duo

USF Head Coach Willie Taggart and his team run on to the field before the game between the SMU Mustangs and the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)
(Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

They are always working. So the nickname — “9 to 5’’ — came naturally for University of South Florida junior quarterback Quinton Flowers (No. 9) and junior running back Marlon Mack (No. 5).

Heading into Friday night’s game at Temple, Flowers and Mack have become the most dynamic rushing tandem in the American Athletic Conference — and one of the nation’s best.

“I think they’ve hit their rhythm,’’ said USF coach Willie Taggart, whose Bulls (6-1, 3-0) can clinch their fifth-straight road victory by beating the Owls (4-3, 2-1).

For sure.

Flowers has rushed for seven touchdowns and 655 yards — second only to Lamar Jackson, Louisville’s Heisman Trophy favorite, among Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks.

After a slow start, mostly due to injuries, Mack has three consecutive 100-yard rushing games, giving him a total of 592 yards and nine touchdowns.

At 3,014 career rushing yards, Mack already has USF’s all-time record and he’s 17th all-time among FBS rushers in the state of Florida, passing luminaries such as Florida’s Tim Tebow and Miami’s Edgerrin James with a 107-yard effort in a 42-27 victory against Connecticut.

For the second straight game — and third overall — Flowers and Mack surpassed 100 yards rushing in the same game.

Flowers and Mack are among seven teams nationwide to have two players who each have surpassed the 500-yard rushing mark. Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson (538) and Kamryn Pettway (505).

  • Iowa’s LeShun Daniels Jr. (595) and Akrum Wadley (586)
  • Louisville’s Lamar Jackson (832) and Brandon Radcliff (534)
  • New Mexico’s Teriyon Gipson (539) and Tyrone Owens (516)
  • USF’s Quinton Flowers (655) and Marlon Mack (592)
  • Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams (704) and Trevor Knight (502)
  • Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin (795) and Jamauri Bogan (539)

Flowers and Mack are the two biggest reasons why USF has the nation’s longest streak in consecutive games with 200 yards rushing (12), 35 points (11) and 440 yards overall (11).

Mack has been a proven commodity with back-to-back 1,000-yard-rushing seasons and first-team spots on the All-AAC team.

Flowers, after spot duty as a freshman, has emerged like a comet. He rushed for 991 yards last season — including a 201-yard effort against SMU — and is on the way to surpassing those numbers.

In one startling sequence last Saturday against UConn, Flowers showed why he’s such a compelling force.

It might have been the most exciting run of this college football season.

From the USF 46-yard line, Flowers took the shotgun snap, faked a quick throw to the right, then headed left on a designed run.

Things were clogged, so he bounced back right.

Again, there was a bottleneck of defenders, some of whom closed in for the tackle, but Flowers darted and hopped between them, squirting free.

Finding an opening to the left, he accelerated and found the sideline. He out kicked a diving UConn defender and roared in for a stunning 54-yard touchdown.

It was a confident quarterback, keeping his cool, finding the right opening.

It was a little kid in the backyard, the kid no one else could catch.

It was all of that.

“That’s just Quinton’s ability,’’ USF center Cameron Ruff said. “After watching film the next day, I still don’t understand how he did it all. He always finds a way. He just has a natural instinct for the game.’’

Taggart described Flowers’ run as “one of the best I’ve seen in college football.’’

“At first, I was yelling, ‘Get down!’ because I didn’t want him to get sacked,’’ Taggart said. “I’m screaming, ‘No, no, no’ … then it becomes, ‘Go, go, go!’

“I just shook my head. You got to be kidding me. He got out of that? It’s like he has eyes in the back of head. Great footwork. He might need to go on ‘Dancing With The Stars.’’’

Meanwhile, the Bulls continue to do a slow dance when it comes to national attention. More people are noticing USF. With those kind of offensive numbers, it’s easy to see why.

A victory against Temple would provide the best start in USF’s 20-season program history.

And no doubt, it will need to be fueled by the hard-working duo known as “9 to 5.’’

What a way to make a living.

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