SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – Quinton Flowers threw two touchdown passes and D’Ernest Johnson had two TD runs in a dominant second quarter that helped No. 19 South Florida overcome an early 16-point deficit to beat San Jose State 42-22 on Saturday in the first game under new coach Charlie Strong.
The Strong era got off to a rough start with the Bulls being held to 22 yards in the opening quarter, the defense allowed two early TD passes by Josh Love and two ineffective punts setting up two scores for the Spartans.
But the tides turned when Josh Black stuffed Malike Roberson for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-1 from the South Florida 33 in the closing minute of the first quarter with San Jose State leading 16-0.
It took less than nine minutes for the Bulls to turn that big early deficit into a lead with help from a pair of interceptions off deflected passes by Josh Love. Flowers started the comeback with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Darnell Salomon, Johnson followed with a TD run on fourth-and-goal from the 2 and Flowers followed with a 49-yard scoring strike to Temi Alaka.
Johnson capped the four-touchdown, 271-yard quarter with a tight-rope act down the sideline for a 50-yard touchdown run that made it 28-16 and the rout was on in the second half.
Flowers added a touchdown run in the fourth quarter and finished 11 for 23 for 212 yards passing and 70 yards on 18 carries.
SOUTH FLORIDA: The Bulls entered the season with lofty expectations after tying the 2008 squad for the highest preseason ranking in school history. The early struggles could be a sign of concern or just the normal process of finding a rhythm under a new coaching staff. One bright spot all game was a stout run defense that held San Jose State to 2.9 yards per carry, including an impressive tackle for loss by Juwuan Brown that ended a third-quarter drive.
SAN JOSE STATE: The Spartans looked far more competitive in their opener under coach Brent Brennan than they did a year ago under coach Ron Caragher but still lost for the 24th time in their past 25 meetings against ranked teams. Love threw two touchdown passes to Bailey Gaither in the first quarter to open up the big lead. Gaither also blocked a punt that set up his second touchdown and the San Jose State defense held one of the nation’s most dynamic quarterbacks in check for one quarter. But the offense failed to get much going after the first quarter with Love throwing three interceptions. Backup QB Montel Aaron threw a TD pass in the fourth quarter.
SOUTH FLORIDA: The Bulls their home opener next Saturday against Stony Brook of the FCS.
SAN JOSE STATE: The Spartans get a bit of a breather in a grueling nonconference schedule when they host FCS-level Cal Poly next weekend before making trips to No. 23 Texas and Utah the following two weeks.
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