Above photo: A riveting 2017 season produced a number of new records and achievements for USF football. Courtesy of The Oracle
By Michael Fergusson
Excitement, heartbreak and herculean efforts were staples of the 2017 USF football season. Many of the games looked like they were straight out of a video game.
The Bulls went 10-2 this season, which is the first time USF football has had back-to-back double-digit-win seasons after last season’s 11-2 record.
A team with poor defense morphed into a powerhouse on both sides of the ball. With the help of defensive-minded new head coach Charlie Strong, the South Florida defense was second in the nation in interceptions and fifth in tackles for loss.
Senior linebacker Auggie Sanchez led the defensive unit with 84 tackles and now holds the record for the most career tackles at USF with 388. Being the “quarterback of the defense,” Sanchez had high expectations to leave it all on the table, and he most certainly did, with an average of 10 tackles for loss and two sacks each game.
Senior cornerback Deatrick Nichols also had lofty expectations this season, and the Miami native did not disappoint. Nichols led the team with 12 pass breakups on the season and is ranked third in USF football career interceptions with 11.
The South Florida offense was sixth in the nation in total offense—averaging 513 yards per game—and eighth in the nation in rushing offense—putting up 264.1 rushing yards per game.
Two words: Quinton Flowers.
Widely regarded as the greatest player to ever sport green and gold, all eyes were on Flowers this season to see if there was anything he couldn’t do.
In the game against UCF, Flowers passed for 503 yards and rushed for 102 yards, with a total of five touchdowns. Despite the loss, it was apparent that Flowers put everything he had into that game.
During his last bowl game as a USF player, Flowers threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Tyre McCants with 16 seconds left in the game to lead a marvelous comeback against Big 12 opponent Texas Tech—good for a 38-34 win.
Flowers had zero interceptions, threw for 311 yards, rushed for 106 yards and tallied five touchdowns in that game.
It was good old fashioned hero ball at its finest.
That final game brought Flowers’ career stats to 8,130 passing yards, which is ranked fourth in USF football history, and 3,672 career rushing yards, which is ranked first in USF football history.
These combine for 11,802 yards of total offense, which is first in USF history. Flowers’ career 112 touchdowns is also first in USF football.
Other offensive contributors were senior running backs D’Ernest Johnson and Darius Tice, who stampeded their ways through opposing defensive linemen and cornerbacks.
Johnson is now USF’s leader in career all-purpose yards with 4,186, while Tice rushed for 943 yards, which was the second highest on the team. This added to his career high 11 rushing touchdowns this season.
This senior class came in as freshmen to a team that was 2-10 in 2013. Four years later and they’re ending their tenure with a double-digit win season after turning the program around with 33 wins and 17 losses over that period.
This senior class gave everything they had to better USF football, and their efforts will be remembered for years to come by every alumni, student, and fan who watched them perform at Raymond James Stadium.
Looking to the future, it is easy to be nervous about the direction of the program without the seniors.
Many will look to Strong to see if he has the talent to not only win with returning players, but to win with a class comprised solely of his recruits.
Will South Florida continue their dominance or will they revert back to a mediocre team? Only time will tell.