NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Quinton Flowers passed for two touchdowns, ran for 138 yards and another score, and No. 16 South Florida extended the nation's longest active winning streak to 12 games with a 34-28 victory over Tulane on Saturday night.
South Florida (7-0, 4-0 American) also scored at least 30 points in a game for a modern-era record 24th straight time, but needed to hold on after Tulane nearly clawed back from a 27-point hole.
Jonathan Banks passed for two touchdowns for Tulane, and Dontrell Hilliard's tackle-slipping, 16-yard touchdown run made it a one-possession game with 2:45 left. But the Green Wave (3-4, 1-2) failed to recover an onside kick and could not stop Darius Tice's run on third down, allowing the Bulls to run out the clock and drop Tulane to its first home loss this season.
USF had never before opened a season with seven straight victories. But now first-year coach Charlie Strong can add that accomplishment to his resume, one season after being run out of Texas.
Flowers scored the game's opening points when he eluded several defenders behind the line of scrimmage before breaking into the clear for a 21-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. His scoring passes went for 38 yards to Darnel Salomon and 28 yards Marq Scantling.
The Bulls went up 13-0 after capitalizing on a defensive stop on fourth-and-1, followed by Flowers' 12-yard scramble on third-and-10. That set up Tice's 45-yard touchdown on a draw play.
Tulane pulled to 13-7 on Terren Encalade's 73-yard catch and run on a pass over the middle from Banks.
But Flowers' scoring strike to Salomon down the left sideline made it 20-7 shortly before halftime. USF then opened the second half with another touchdown drive highlighted by Flowers' 43-yard run, which set up his timing pass to Scantling in the right corner of the end zone to make it 27-7.
With the help of Flowers' lone interception, Tulane rallied with Sherman Badie's 36-yard scoring run and Hilliard's 24-yard TD reception. Meanwhile, USF kicker Emilio Nadelman uncharacteristically missed two field goals, with one sailing wide and the second being blocked.
South Florida still doesn't have a victory over Division I Football Bowl Subdivision team that currently has even a .500 record. Still, the Bulls at one point led 34-7 on the road over an improved Tulane squad before allowing the Green Wave to rally, so they should at least hold steady in the AP Top 25 Poll .
South Florida: Flowers's ability to turn seemingly any defensive breakdown into a big play was on full display. His drive-extending scrambles gave Tulane fits, and it will be interesting to see if any defense on the Bulls' schedule figures out how to stop him - or at least hold USF to fewer than 30 points.
Tulane: The Green Wave gets credit for not quitting, but needs far more consistency on offense to start moving up the standings in the American Conference.
South Florida: The Bulls host Houston next Saturday
Tulane: The Green Wave Memphis on Friday night.
© 2018 Associated Press