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(Saturday, January 2nd)
Final Score: South Florida 27, Northern Illinois 3
Toronto, ON (Sports Network) - Mike Ford rushed for 207 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown, as South Florida claimed a 27-3 win over Northern Illinois in the International Bowl at the Rogers Centre.
B.J. Daniels threw for 217 yards on 14-of-22 completions with a pair of scores, both to A.J. Love for South Florida (8-5), which had dropped five of its last seven regular season games coming in. The Bulls, who earned a 41-14 victory over Memphis in the St. Petersburg bowl last season, are 3-2 in their last five bowl appearances.
"Our defense played extremely well to keep us in it right up to halftime," USF head coach Jim Leavitt said. "I thought it was extraordinary the way our team changed at halftime, especially our offense."
Love ended with three catches for 56 yards with the two TDs, while Carlton Mitchell had six receptions for 94 yards in the win.
Chand Harnish finished 12-of-25 passing for 130 yards with an interception for Northern Illinois (7-6), which lost its last three games this season, including setbacks to Ohio and Central Michigan to close out the regular season. Chad Spann gained 93 yards on the ground on 20 handles, while Mike Salerno accounted for the Huskies only points with a 21-yard field goal.
"They are tremendously fast," Spann said about the USF defense. "We were trying to preach these last couple weeks we got to get everything north and south because they are very fast east and west."
The Huskies have now lost three straight bowl games, including a 17-10 loss to Louisiana Tech in last season's Independence Bowl.
USF stopped Northern Illinois' fake punt on 4th-and-1 near midfield on the Huskies' first drive of the game and turned it into three points when Eric Schwartz drilled a 39-yard field goal.
The Bulls maintained the slim 3-0 advantage until Salerno hit a 21-yard chip shot early in the second period to tie things.
Neither team threatened in the remaining time in the first half and the game was deadlocked at 3-3 at the break.
South Florida then scored on its first two possessions of the third quarter.
First, Schwartz's 19-yard field goal put the Bulls ahead, then after Northern Illinois was unable to answer, Daniels rolled right and spotted Love for a 46- yard touchdown with just over five minutes to play in the quarter for a 13-3 edge.
Another Daniels-to-Love hookup, this time for seven yards stretched the USF lead to 20-3 just five seconds into the fourth quarter. The score capped a seven-play, 52-yard drive.
With the Huskies trying desperately to get something going offensively with nearly 6 1/2 minutes left to play, Harnish lost a fumble at the NIU 24 and USF quickly capitalized. Ford took a handoff on the first play of the set and went in for the score with 6:25 remaining.
Salerno missed a 52-yarder with 2:44 to go and the Bulls were able to run out the remaining time on the clock.
South Florida improved to 2-1 in the all-time series between the two schools on the gridiron.
01/02 19:21:43 ET