Fourth Quarter Rally Lifts USF Past SMSU, 44-22
The Cougars had just a four point advantage heading into the final period, but Taylor Perkins connected with Jeremiah Oates and Kendrick Celestine on consecutive fourth quarter drives, to pull away and record the game's final score.
USF begins the season 5-0 for the ninth time in 10 seasons, while SMSU falls to 1-4.
After jumping out to a 20-3 lead early in the third quarter, USF quickly found themselves on their heels as the high-powered Mustang offensive rattled off 13 straight points to close out the third quarter.
First, Tyler Peschong called his own number to conclude a 10 play 65 yard drive for the Mustangs. Then, a USF fumble gave SMSU the ball back with a short field to work from.
The Mustangs would cap a four play 55 yard drive with another score. This time, Peschong found Cody Condon for a 19-yard touchdown reception for a four point game.
However, that is when USF offense came alive.
On the opening fourth quarter drive, USF called on their wide receivers as they had all year long. Kendrick Celestine picked up a huge 11 yard grab on third and two to keep the drive alive. Two plays later, it would pay off, when Perkins found Carrington Hanna for his second score to put USF ahead 27-16.
SMSU would keep things interesting. The Mustangs responded with a 23 yard touchdown from Gannon Moore with 10:17 to go.
Once regaining possession, the Cougars countered again. Perkins tossed a 45 yard bomb to Oates for his second touchdown on the game to give USF a 34-22 cushion with 8:16 to play.
USF iced it with one more score. This time Perkins threw a 29 yard strike to Celestine to make it 41-22. Celestine's touch marked his first of the season and accounted for the game's final score.
The Cougars had another strong outing on the defensive side of the ball, recording three additional takeaways (2 Ints, 1 FF) and six tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Matt White led the way with 12 tackles, while Nick Bonte added 10 tackles, including one for a loss.
Warren Matthews was close, but no SMSU player rushed for 100 yards, which means the Cougars streak of no 100 yard rushers improves to 20 games.
USF racked up a season-high tonight with 536 yards of total offense.
Taylor Perkins finished 18-31 317 yards and five touchdowns, both career-highs. He also reminded fans he could get it done on the ground with a season-high 52 rushing yards.
Oates led the Cougars with five catches for 112 yards and two scores, which gives him nine touchdowns on the year. Carrington Hanna added four receptions for 76 yards and two touchdowns of his own.
Kristian Porter carried the ball 10 times for 97 yards, including a long of 49 yards.
USF also received a record-breaking performance from Braden Wieking. He converted both of his attempts Saturday, which included a new Cougars record a 54 yarder. He now sits tied with TC Fraser (44) for first in career-field goals made.
Up next, USF will face a tough road test when they travel to Winona State University (4-1-0), Saturday October 6. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.