Birmingham Bowl grades: Flowers fuels USF win over South Carolina

Bulls' quarterback wins with his arm and his legs in overtime bowl victory over Gamecocks.

| 5 months ago
(Michael Rehnken, Getty Images)

(Michael Rehnken, Getty Images)

Birmingham Bowl grades: Flowers fuels USF win over South Carolina

USF Bulls 46, South Carolina Gamecocks 39

Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from the Bulls’ 46-39 Birmingham Bowl victory over the Gamecocks:

USF Bulls

Quarterback grade: Quinton Flowers, 80.1

Flowers slows down after injury, but overcomes in OT

Quinton Flowers was at his usual best when running the ball, as he gained 110 yards (67 after contact) and three touchdowns, with 88 of the yards coming on 16 designed runs. Flowers did struggle with the heavy winds, as he attempted just three passes over 20 yards, completing two — both touchdowns. Flowers finishes the season with the top rushing grade of all FBS QBs, and should provide new head coach Charlie Strong with a solid start to his USF coaching career.

Top offensive grades:

LT Kofi Amichia, 84.8
QB Quinton Flowers, 80.1
RB D’Ernest Johnson, 73.1
RG Dominique Threatt, 69.9
RT Marcus Norman, 68.2

Flowers gets little help from supporting cast

Flowers dominated the game with his legs, and it was his ability to extend plays that got USF this victory. Outside of an impressive performance by LT Kofi Amichia and a solid game receiving out of the backfield by RB D’Ernest Johnson (92.3 receiving grade), the Bulls’ O-line struggled to run block well, and the skill players didn’t create many plays on their own. Johnson caught all six of his targets for 95 yards, one touchdown and forced one missed tackle.

Top defensive grades:

DI Deadrin Senat, 91.9
DI Bruce Hector, 87.4
CB Ronnie Hoggins, 86
S Jaymon Thomas, 80.5
ED Mike Love, 78.4

Senat and Hector form an unblockable pair

DT Deadrin Senat only recorded four tackles and one run stop, but his work in the run game was special, as he forced several cuts and made the Gamecocks’ interior O-line look foolish at times. Senat was also solid rushing the passer, notching three hurries and a batted pass. Bruce Hector was strong overall, as he recorded two sacks, one hit and one hurry along with one run stop. DE Mike Love made the play of the game with a game-winning strip-sack while also getting an additional hit earlier in the game. Probably the unluckiest player, CB Ronnie Hoggins was targeted four times, allowing two catches for 14 yards. But gave up a touchdown on an impressive diving attempt at a pass breakup that fell into the arms of South Carolina WR Bryan Edwards.

South Carolina Gamecocks

Quarterback grade: Jake Bentley, 69.7

Bentley efficient but unimpressive in defeat

While Jake Bentley’s stat line will look impressive, his two interceptions loom large, as one was returned for a USF touchdown, and he also fumbled on the final play of the game. Bentley had another interception dropped and didn’t make up for his big mistakes with any big-time throws. Under pressure, Bentley completed six of nine passes for 92 yards, two TDs and one INT, but took five sacks.

Top offensive grades:

TE Hayden Hurst, 89.3
WR Deebo Samuel, 83.1
QB Jake Bentley, 69.7
RB A.J. Turner, 69.6
WR Bryan Edwards, 66.4

Gamecocks unable to run block, but Hurst and Samuel impress receiving

When targeting Deebo Samuel, Bentley completed 14 of 15 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown, and Samuel forced an impressive five missed tackles. Unfortunately, the one incompletion was an interception on a badly overthrown pass that was never catchable. TE Hayden Hurst was just as impressive on his nine targets, catching six for 86 yards and 1 touchdown. But similar to Samuel, Bentley badly misread the defense and threw the pick-six. The offensive line was solid in pass protection for most of the game, but RT Malik Young made one mistake and allowed the final strip-sack. As a run-blocking unit, they failed to create many running lanes, as runners gained 103 yards on 25 carries, with 65 of those coming after contact.

Top defensive grades:

ED Dante Sawyer, 88.4
LB Bryson Allen-Williams, 82.4
CB Chris Lammons, 82.2
DI Ulric Jones, 80.7
DI Taylor Stallworth, 77.6

Sawyer sets the edge, DL strong against the run

DE Dante Sawyer made most of his damage against TE Elkanah Dillon, as the powerful edge defender was too much for the USF tight end. Finishing with five run stops on just 24 run-defense snaps, Sawyer finished with a near-perfect run-defense grade while also recording two hurries. LB Bryson Allen-Williams had one of the most impressive interceptions you’ll see this bowl season, as he leaped to catch an underthrown pass from Flowers one-handed. DT Ulric Jones was solid in run defense, with two stops, as was Taylor Stallworth, recording three stops.

| Analyst

John is an analyst for Pro Football Focus and former safety for the University of Kansas Jayhawks (2004–2006).

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