No. 22 USF starts slowly before rolling over Illinois 47-23

Quinton Flowers threw for 280 yards and four touchdowns and No. 22 South Florida returned from a Hurricane Irma-imposed layoff to rout Illinois 47-23 on Friday night.

Flowers moved ahead of Matt Grothe and B.J. Daniels into second place on USF’s career touchdown pass list with 53. The 2016 American Athletic Conference offensive player of the year also scored his 32nd rushing touchdown, tying Marlon Mack’s school record.

The Bulls (3-0) beat a Big Ten opponent for the first time on a night USF honored first responders who worked the past week to help victims of the massive storm that impacted the entire state of Florida.

“We felt like we had a chance to give back … provide some relief for our communities, if only for a few hours,” coach Charlie Strong said.

“I was really proud of how our team responded,” to a short practice week that followed the postponement of last week’s game at Connecticut, Strong said, adding that senior leadership provided by Flowers was one of the keys to the dominating performance.

“He goes about his work,” the coach said, “and guys follow.”

Illinois (2-1) stumbled in what also was a homecoming of sorts for coach Lovie Smith, who returned to the stadium where he led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two seasons before being fired and accepting the challenge of rebuilding the Illini.

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