College Sports

USF coach Willie Taggart’s touch engulfs Miami Beach Bowl

South Florida head coach Willie Taggart during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against Cincinnati Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Tampa, Fla.
South Florida head coach Willie Taggart during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against Cincinnati Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. AP

No, we won’t do it. Too, too easy what with Monday’s Miami Beach Bowl at Marlins Park, South Florida vs. No. 25 Western Kentucky, occurring so soon after the latest edition of that space blockbuster franchise. Must…resist…but…can’t…

The circle is now complete.

Yeah, yeah, cheap, hackneyed. Also, archer accurate. Players, coaches — particularly South Florida’s Willie Taggart — this matchup brims with returns and revisits.

Check out the quarterbacks. South Florida sophomore Quinton Flowers graduated from Jackson High, 29 blocks straight up Northwest 17th Avenue from Marlins Park, and played his youth ball for the Liberty City Warriors. Though Flowers said “it’s an amazing feeling to play close to home” and he’ll have 50 to 60 people at the game, the three-star recruit left town willfully.

“It was close to home, but not too close,” Flowers said of South Florida. “I didn’t want to go too far because I didn’t want to be too close to cold weather. But being in Miami all my life, you know everything and that’ll always be home. But I’d rather not be around all the things that can happen in Miami.”

Taggart said, “He’s everything we thought he would be. He’s made a huge difference in our football team, not only on offense, but on defense and special teams. He inspired everybody with the way he plays.”

Flowers has run for 883 yards, a team-high 10 rushing touchdowns and passed for 2,023 yards and 21 touchdowns. Flowers’ counterpart, Western’s Brandon Doughty, runs forward only after another completion down field, but might throw 21 touchdowns in a month. That’s only a slight exaggeration — Doughty threw 20 in October.

Western turned into an offensive powerhouse about five seconds after Bobby Petrino took over in 2013 and brought current head coach Jeff Brohm with him as offensive coordinator. Another example of things coming back around: Brohm spent the 2009 season as an FAU quarterbacks coach and was a Louisville assistant under Petrino when the Cardinals won the 2007 Orange Bowl (Jeff’s brother, Brian Brohm, was Louisville’s quarterback and game MVP).

After a second consecutive season over 4,000 yards passing and 40 touchdowns (4,594 and 45, respectively), the North Broward Prep graduate ends his college career Monday.

“This whole journey has been like God’s opened a red carpet and said, ‘Brandon, follow me,’ ” Doughty said. “I’ve been truly blessed in this process. To cap it off at home, in front of 30 of my family members, playing Coach T. I couldn’t ask for anything more. I saw him [Thursday]. Good to see all those guys are doing well, not just as coaches, as people.”

“Coach T” recruited Doughty to Western, Flowers to South Florida and lifted both programs up out of college-affiliated football’s Krusty Krab neighborhood. Before the matchup’s announcement, during the possibility stages, G5 watchers started calling this The Willie Taggart Bowl.

The common line about Hockey Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux — he saved the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins franchise first as a player, then as an owner — applies to Taggart and Western.

As a four-year starting quarterback out of Bradenton Manatee High from 1995-98, Taggart’s All-America career propelled a turnaround for a Division I-AA program on the verge of being shut down. As Western’s head coach from 2010-12, Taggart took a team on a 20-game losing streak and ended with a pair of 7-5 regular seasons and a bowl berth.

Taggart says he really hasn’t thought about the emotions he’ll feel Monday,

“Four or five years ago, nobody would’ve thought Western Kentucky would be ranked,” Taggart said. “As an alumnus and former coach, I’m really proud of their success. But I really like the way winning feels. I want to win the ballgame.”

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