USF coach Jim Leavitt by no means applauded his team’s effort Saturday after the game, but he didn’t downplay the implications of a win.
After getting shut out at Rutgers a week before, the USF offense found its groove to the tune of 538 total yards, and the Bulls held off a pesky Louisville team 34-22 at Raymond James Stadium to gain bowl eligibility for the fifth straight year.
“I guess it’s always good to win a game,” Leavitt said. “I don’t mean that in a bad way. I’m thinking about some of the mistakes we need to correct. This football team is so young.”
In a game that seemed like a must-win for USF’s bowl eligibility before an in-state showdown with Miami on Saturday followed by a trip to Connecticut, the Bulls appeared ready to blow the door open in the first quarter.
USF scored touchdowns on its first two offensive possessions: a 16-yard touchdown pass from quarterback B.J. Daniels to junior receiver Dontavia Bogan and a 2-yard run by senior Mo Plancher.
The Cardinals, however, scored 16 unanswered points in the second quarter, highlighted by a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Adam Froman to receiver Scott Long and a 60-yard punt return by Trent Guy.
“I was really disappointed with that,” Leavitt said of Guy’s return. “The punt was awful, the coverage was awful – everything was awful.”
USF also missed a field goal, had a fumble late in the game and committed six penalties, several of which nullified big gains.
“I didn’t think we played as near as good as we needed to play,” Leavitt said. “I’m happy we came out and won the football game, but I’m not particularly in to winning or losing to be quite honest with you. I’m more into playing good football – well-coached football. We play like that against Miami, we’ll get blown out.”
USF did enough in the second half to pull away. After the Bulls took a 17-16 lead into halftime, Daniels, who eclipsed 100 yards rushing for the fourth time in seven starts this season, led an 80-yard drive and scored on a 20-yard scamper.
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. Daniels’ also became the first Big East player to rush for 100 and throw for 300 in the same game.
“I’m not really concerned with records,” Daniels said. “As long as we get a win, it doesn’t matter.”
The Cardinals continued to pressure the Bulls, cutting the lead to five in the fourth quarter. However, Daniels scored again – a 1-yard sneak – and USF edged its way into bowl eligibility.
After losing three of four games, junior wide receiver A.J. Love, who had a career-high 121 receiving yards, said the win was much-needed heading into Saturday’s showdown with Miami.
“We answered a few questions. It wasn’t total domination,” he said. “We got the ‘W,’ that’s what’s most important.”