Dec 22, 2023 | TYLER

USF Wins the 2023 Boca Raton Bowl

BOCA RATON, Fla. — USF made an emphatic statement in its first bowl appearance since 2018, dominating Syracuse from start to finish in a 45-0 win that featured several record-setting performances.

First-year coach Alex Golesh did a remarkable job turning around a program that won eight games total in the four years before his arrival. USF finishes this season with seven wins — its first winning season since 2017 — and the largest margin of victory in a bowl game in school history. Like the Bulls did all season, they did it behind quarterback Byrum Brown and receiver Sean Atkins.

Brown threw for 213 yards and three touchdown passes to reach 26 on the season, breaking Quinton Flowers’ single-season school record of 25 set in 2017. Brown also joined Flowers as the only two players in program history with 4,000 total yards in a season.

Meanwhile, Atkins had six catches for 93 yards and two scores, becoming the first player in school history to go over 1,000 receiving yards.

But the USF defense took center stage. The Bulls came into the game ranked No. 128 out of 130 FBS teams in total defense but completely shut down the Orange, who were playing without starting quarterback Garrett Shrader (shoulder surgery).

Syracuse turned once again to converted tight end Dan Villari and Braden Davis at quarterback, but nothing was working. USF forced four turnovers — including a strip-sack fumble that Tramel Logan Jr. returned for a 61-yard score. USF special teams got involved, too, when Syracuse muffed the hold on a field goal attempt, and Aamaris Brown returned the fumble 64 yards for a score. Those two scores helped USF build a 31-0 lead at halftime, and the Bulls never looked back.

It was a disappointing end for Syracuse, which fired coach Dino Babers in November and had interim coach Nunzio Campanile in charge for the bowl. Incoming coach Fran Brown was in Boca to watch, and so was Ohio State transfer quarterback Kyle McCord, whom the Orange hope will help them improve next season. — Andrea Adelson


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