USF was by no means dominant, but grinding out a late-season conference win was the most important thing.
After getting shut out at Rutgers a week ago, the USF offense found its groove to the tune of 538 total yards and held off Louisville 34-22 on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium to clinch bowl eligibility.
“We answered a few questions. It wasn’t total domination,” said junior receiver A.J. Love, who had a career-high 121 yards receiving. “We got the ‘W,’ that’s what’s most important.”
USF scored touchdowns on its first two possessions, with a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback B.J. Daniels to receiver Dontavia Bogan and a 2-yard run from Mo Plancher.
The Cardinals, however, scored 16 unanswered in the second quarter, highlighted by a 62-yard punt return by Trent Guy and a touchdown toss from quarterback Adam Froman to Scott Long.
USF also had a field goal attempt blocked and committed six penalties, several which nullified big gains.
“No excuse,” said USF coach Jim Leavitt of the special teams play. “I didn’t think we played as near as good as we needed to play. I’m happy we came out and won the football game but I’m not particularly into winning or losing to be quite honest with you. I’m more into playing good football – well-coached football.”
The Bulls took a 17-16 lead into halftime after junior Eric Scwhartz hit a 21-yard field goal. To begin the second half, Daniels, who eclipsed 100 rushing yards for the third time this season, capped an 80-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown scamper to start the third quarter.
Daniels finished with 304 passing yards and 141 rushing yards, becoming the first player in USF history to have at least 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game.
“He played with courage,” Leavitt said. “He played with fight. He played with confidence.”
Louisville cut a 27-16 USF lead to 27-22 early in the fourth quarter on a 17-yard run by Darius Ashley but failed on a two-point conversion try. Daniels put the game out of reach with a quarterback sneak to put the Bulls up 34-22.
The Bulls, who host Miami next Saturday, are now bowl eligible for the fourth straight season.
“I’m not into all that,” Leavitt said. “We’re in our 10th game, and I want to get better. I want to play great football.”