TAMPA - During its short 14-year history, the University of South Florida football team has made a name for itself as a team that could step up and shock the college football world with a big upset. They did it in 2001 in just its second year as an independent Football Bowl Subdivision member when it handed Pittsburgh a 35-26 loss, in 2007 when it defeated Auburn, 26-23 in overtime, and last year when it beat Florida State, 17-7. All three of those wins came on the road and in front of stunned home crowds.
On Saturday, it looked early on that USF was poised to possibly shock the nation once again, as it traveled to Gainesville to take on No. 8 Florida. The Gators, however, would find their groove, scoring 21-unanswered third quarter points en route to a 38-14 win over the Bulls in front of 90,612 fans at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, the second largest crowd that USF has ever played in front of.
The Bulls would come out of the locker room looking to establish the tempo of the game and take control, and that's exactly what they did. After the USF defense gave Florida nothing in its first series, forcing the Gators into a three-and-out, quarterback B.J. Daniels and the Bulls' offense would take over on the Florida four yard line and proceed to go on a 17-play, 96-yard drive which would end in a two-yard pass from Daniels to tight end Andrew Ketchel with 3:53 left in the first quarter.
That initial drive would consist of 12 rushing attempts and just two passing completions - out of five attempts - using up 9:58 of the clock, and seemingly taking a toll on the Florida defense on a day that saw the temperature rise to 89 degrees at kick off with a heat index of 103.
USF also converted on five third down plays during the drive, including a third-and-eight play, from the USF 48-yard line, when Daniels hit wide receiver Dontavia Bogan for a 12-yard connection, and then on third-and-two from Florida's 32-yard line, wide receiver Lindsey Lamar would scamper for 21 yards down to the Gator 11-yard line.
The big play of the series came on third-and-goal when Daniels looked to connect with Bogan, however Florida defensive back Jeremy Brown would be called for pass interference setting up the strike to Ketchel on the next play to put the Bulls up 7-0.
Each team would end up punting on their next two series, respectively, before the Gators would put together their own drive and threaten to get on the scoreboard.
Starting at its own 10-yard line, Florida used a series of runs to get out to its own 41-yard line before quarterback John Brantley threw a 21-yard completion to running back Jeffery Demps where he was knocked out of bounds at the Bulls' 38-yard line by safety Jon Lejiste. The Gators eventually got deep into USF territory, giving Gator kicker Caleb Sturgis an opportunity at a 39-yard field goal attempt that would go wide.
The Florida defense, however, would strike on the Bulls' next series when safety Ahmad Black intercepted a Daniels pass and returned it two yards to the Bulls 29 yard line. The Gators took advantage just two plays later, when Brantley went up the middle to wide receiver Carl Moore for an 11-yard touchdown strike to tie the game at 7-7, a score that would hold up at the break.
At the beginning of the second half, USF was poised to get back into the Gator end zone. The Bulls took over possession at their own 32 yard line and quickly gave the ball to running back Demetris Murray who would rush for 33 yards down to the Florida 35 yard line. After back-to-back runs by Murray and Daniels, Murray would look to take the ball from Daniels on a hand off, however never got a grip on it. The fumble would be recovered by the Gators on its own 12-yard line. Just two plays after the miscue, Demps would go 62 yards for a touchdown to give Florida its first lead of the game.
The Gators would eventually go up 28-7 before the Bulls scored again on a three-yard Murray touchdown run with 25 seconds left in the third quarter, cutting the lead to two touchdowns. That would be as close as USF would get the rest of the day. The scoring play was set up by a 51-yard reception by wide receiver Evan Landi.
Although the Bulls recorded just 86 yards passing on the day, the USF running attack would find a pretty good rhythm rushing for 244 yards on 39 carries. Daniels rushed for 107 of those 244 yards doing so on 17 carries. It was the fifth time that he ran for more than 100 yards in a game in his career.
In addition, with his 107 rushing yards, Daniels becomes only the second quarterback to rush for more than 100 yards against the Gators since 1996. On Sept. 14, 2002, Dontrell Jackson (Ohio) rushed for 118 yards.
Murray would also finish with 62 yards rushing on 11 carries and running back Moise Plancher surpassed the 1,000-yard plateau for his career rushing for 32 yards on six carries.
The Bulls will have a bye week next week as they prepare for their meeting with Western Kentucky on Sept. 25 at Raymond James Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 7:05 p.m.
Post Game Notes
- The 90,612 fans at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field make up the second-largest road crowd to watch the Bulls, trailing the 99,235 at Penn State on Sept. 3, 2005. Today's attendance topped the third-largest crowd of 83,524 at Florida State on Sept. 26, 2009.
- USF is 11-3 against teams from the state of Florida, 30-21 in day games, 39-15 in hot weather (80 or hotter at kickoff).
- The meeting between USF and Florida marked the first between the two programs.
- Coach Skip Holtz (Notre Dame '86) is in his first season with USF and is in his 11th season as a head coach and has a career record of 73-51.
- The USF program has an all-time record of 96-58, and a 76-45 record since joining the FBS in 2000.
- USF has gone 24-8 in regular-season, non-conference games during their seven seasons as a conference member. Since joining the BIG EAST in 2005, USF has gone 21-5 in regular-season, non-conference matchups. Even better, over the last four seasons, the Bulls have posted a 15-2 record, including wins at Florida State (2009), at N.C. State (2008), vs. No. 10 Kansas (2008), at Auburn (2007) and vs. North Carolina (2007).
- The game against UF had one of the hottest kickoffs in USF history with 89 degrees - the current record is 97 degrees for the Bulls' loss at Baylor in 2000. The next-hottest was last year's 59-0 win against Charleston Southern, which was 93 degrees at kickoff.
- Of the combined 205 players on the USF and UF rosters, only 53 players are not from the state of Florida.
- For the second straight game, the Bulls defense opened the game with a three and out. The Bulls held Stony Brook to no yards from three plays in the season opener and against Florida, the Gators lost a yard in three downs before putting out of their first series.
- USF's offensive starters against UF were: WR Dontavia Bogan, LT Jamar Bass, LG Jeremiah Warren, C Sampson Genus, RG Chaz Hine, RT Jake Sims, TE Kevin Gidrey, FL Evan Landi, QB BJ Daniels, RB Mo Plancher, FB Richard Kelly.
- USF's defensive starters against UF were: LE Craig Marshall, NT Cory Grissom, DT Terrell McClain, RE David Bedford, SLB Jacquian Williams, MLB Sam Barrington, WLB DeDe Lattimore, LC Mistral Raymond, SS Jon LeJiste, FS Jerrell Young, RC Kayvon Webster.
- RSo. Quarterback BJ Daniels' 2-yard touchdown pass to Sr. Andrew Ketchel marked Daniels' 17th career TD pass, tying him with Pat Julmiste for third in USF's career record books. Now Daniels only trails Chad Barnhardt (27) and Marquel Blackwell (67) in the category.
- Daniels rushed for 107 yards in the game, the fifth time he has rushed for more than 100 yards in a game. His last 100-yard rushing game was Nov. 21, 2009 against Louisville, when he totaled 141 yards. The five occurrences of rushing for more than 100 yards is the third-most by any player in USF history and the most by a quarterback.
- With 107 rushing yards Daniels becomes only the second quarterback to rush for more than 100 yards against the Gators since 1996. On Sept. 14, 2002, Dontrell Jackson (Ohio) rushed for 118 yards.
- Sr. TE Andrew Ketchel reeled in his first-career TD catch in the first quarter against the Gators, a two-yard pass from Daniels.
- At the end of the second quarter, So. TE Andreas Shields recorded his first-career reception, a 12-yard pass from Daniels.
- Demetrius Murray rumbled into the end zone in the third quarter for USF's second touchdown of the game. The 3-yard run was Murray's first career rushing touchdown.
- Daniels' 51-yard pass to WR Evan Landi in the third quarter was the third-longest play of the season for the Bulls, trailing RB Marcus Shaw's 63-yard rush and a 59-yard pass from Daniels to WR Dontavia Bogan in the opener against Stony Brook.
- With six rushing attempts in the game, Sr. RB Mo Plancher has 225 career rushes tying Dyral McMillan for 10th on the all-time list for rushing attempts. Plancher now trails No. 9 Vince Brewer (243).
- So. LB Sam Barrington recorded eight tackles in the game, surpassing his career high of seven, which was recorded on Dec. 5, 2009 at Connecticut.