TAMPA, APRIL 15, 2017 – Fans packed Corbett Stadium to standing room only Saturday to watch the Bulls produce a spring game thriller on campus.
Senior Marquez Valdes-Scantling (St. Petersburg) hauled in two touchdown catches during his 123-yard day and his 51-yarder made the difference in the Green team’s 15-14 comeback win over the White team that was secured on the final play.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Oladokun (Tampa) drove the White team all the way down to the Green 27-yard line and his final pass in the end zone was batted down by emerging safety/cornerback Craig Watts (St. Petersburg). The pivotal play was set up by a 55-yard catch across midfield by Elkanah Dillon (Ocala, Fla.).
“We divided it up, so it was kind of even on both sides and we just let it be competitive,” said pleased head coach Charlie Strong.
Star quarterback Quinton Flowers (Miami) played only a series for both teams but made an impact in limited action. After Darius Tice rushed three times for 41 yards on the first drive of the game, Flowers put the White team ahead with a 24-yard touchdown to Deangelo Antoine (Orlando), who finished with a team-high six catches for 48 yards.
Green answered back with Emilio Nadelman’s 44-yard field goal into the wind with 7:23 remaining in the half before the White team got back into the end zone after the break.
Oladokun capped off a two-play, 80-yard drive with a 76-yard touchdown pass down the sideline to Darnell Salomon with 7:27 remaining in the third quarter. Salomon, a sophomore from Miami, finished with two catches for a team-high 82 yards.
“Darnell and I, we came in here together, so we’re starting to develop a really good relationship on and off the field,” said Oladokun, who completed 10 of 19 passes for 176 yards.
After tying for the TD catch lead in 2016, Valdes-Scantling picked up where he left by leading the Green team to victory. It all started with his 3-yard touchdown reception on fourth down on a pass from sophomore Brett Kean (Lakewood, Ohio) to end the third quarter.
Competing for the backup spot, Kean has shined all spring and showed fans why by finding Valdes-Scantling again for the winning touchdown from 51 yards out with 3:45 to play.
“We drew them offside, so it was a free play. Brett threw it up and said go make a play. That’s what I did,” said Valdes-Scanting, who finished with a game-high seven catches.
Every Bull involved in the game was impressed with USF’s largest spring game crowd yet at Corbett Stadium. Strong made sure to jump on the microphone to thank everyone before the game was over and told reporters that kind of support will be needed to help take the program to the next level in the fall.
“We’re going to need this crowd and we’re going to need it each and every week,” Strong said. “Like I said, we’re a big-time program, so we have to carry ourselves like we’re a big-time program. We need support and it’s going to come from our fans.”
Defense Steps Up on Both Sides
USF’s defense gave fans a taste of its progress this spring by making plays on both sides and forcing 11 total punts.
Pressure was constant with seven combined sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Sophomore end Greg Reaves (Bradenton, Fla.) led the Green team with two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss, while senior tackle Deadrin Senat (Immokalee) had a sack and forced fumble. Reaves’ second sack stopped the White team’s momentum right before the final play of the game.
“I’m overall very pleased. Defensively, we were able to apply some pressure,” Strong said.
New defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary’s group also collected a pair of takeaways. Senior safety Devin Abraham (Tarpon Springs) picked off a pass in the first quarter and the White team got its hands on another in the second quarter. Junior safety Jaymon Thomas (Immokalee) stopped a drive at the White 16-yard line and returned his pick 22 yards.
Watts, who batted down the final pass, led the Green team with seven total tackles. Linebackers Danny Thomas (Fort Lauderdale) and Nico Sawtelle (Jensen Beach, Fla.) led the White team with seven tackles apiece.
- Former Tampa Bay Rays owners Lenda and Vince Naimoli were recognized at halftime for their $1 million gift to support USF Athletics’ additions and enhancement projects. Learn more about it HERE.
- Redshirt freshman back Elijah Mack (Punta Gorda, Fla.) led the Green team’s rushing attack with 16 carries for 60 yards with a long of 25 yards. Senior Darius Tice (Miami) led the White team with seven rushes for 59 yards and a long of 22 yards.
USF finished the 2016 season ranked No. 19 in the Associated Press poll with a school record 11 wins following the program’s fifth-ever bowl victory in the Birmingham Bowl. The Bulls’ 11-2 record marked the fifth-best winning percentage in FBS football in 2016 and one of just 11 teams to reach 11 wins. USF set nearly 40 team and individual records in 2016, including team records for total yards (6,650), rushing yards (3,714), touchdowns (77) and scoring (569). Junior quarterback Quinton Flowers was named the American Conference Offensive Player of the Year and led a school-record 10 players named to the all-conference team, six of which, including Flowers, will return in 2017.
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