The Bulls had a chance to make another statement in terms of how college football panned out in Florida.
Instead, it was Miami that staked its point.
The 17th-ranked Hurricanes (9-3) outgained the Bulls 401 to 220 yards and trounced USF (7-4) 31-10 in front of an announced crowd of 66,469 at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday to spoil the Bulls’ senior day.
“They got some pretty good talent there,” said USF coach Jim Leavitt, who led the Bulls to a 17-7 win over Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium in late September. “We do too, but probably not at that stage yet. Is that the worst thing to say – that you’re not at the same level as Miami right now? I’d like to say we are, but we’re not.”
A win could have put a different spin on USF’s season outcome, as many players said before the year that they were focused on a Big East championship, rather than beating FSU and Miami in the same year.
The Bulls still feel they have the tools to be among the state’s elite, though.
“It was a frustrating night all-around,” said junior receiver A.J. Love. “We went up (to FSU) and won. It’s a total opposite end of the totem pole. We have the talent — Things are there. We just have to execute better.”
It was Miami that set the example Saturday. The Hurricanes, who clinched their first nine-win season since 2005, scored touchdowns on three of their first four possessions and held the Bulls to a lone field goal in the first half.
Miami bursted for 240 rushing yards on USF’s defense, which was averaging 128.6 allowed rushing yards per game this season. Miami junior Damien Berry finished with a game-high 114 yards.
“Very frustrating,” said USF coordinator Joe Tresey. “You don’t have a prayer to win when you give up that.”
The Bulls trailed 21-3 at halftime, but USF’s offense, which was held to 98 yards in the first half, finally got a spark from redshirt freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels early in the third quarter when he connected with Love in the corner of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown.
The little momentum USF got from that was quickly diminished, however, as Miami scored 10 unanswered points.
After 445 total yards of offense against Louisville a week ago, Daniels finished 6-of-16 passing and had 77 passing yards, while adding an interception and a fumble lost.
“We really couldn’t get going,” Daniels said. “There were a lot of opportunities we could’ve taken advantage of but we didn’t.”
USF, which lost for the fourth time in six games after starting the season 5-0, will travel to Connecticut on Saturday for its final game.
“To beat Miami and Florida State in the same year, that’s very big,” said junior receiver Carlton Mitchell, who caught one pass for 21 yards in his return after missing two games with a high ankle sprain. “It got away. It’s something we can’t control. We have to move on.”
After the win at Florida State, which many regarded as the best in school history, there were talks of USF entering the state’s “Big Three.” But Leavitt downplayed that discussion.
“We’re in the hunt,” Leavitt said. “I don’t know if there are many people that would have said, ‘Hey, they’re going to beat FSU and Miami this year.’ If they did … that’s pretty neat stuff.”