USF’s redshirt freshman quarterbacks gave Raymond James Stadium a brief, bright look into the Bulls’ football future Saturday night.
Both backups for senior quarterback Matt Grothe, B.J. Daniels and Evan Landi, used quick starts to propel impressive performances before a crowd of about 5,000, with Daniels gaining the last laugh and leading the Green team to a 21-20 victory in the
It was Landi, however, who nearly stole the show.
Trailing 21-14 and pushed back to its 12-yard line with 2:13 remaining in the fourth quarter, the White offense was led by Landi to the Green’s six-yard line with 10 seconds remaining. As time expired, the redshirt freshman dropped back to pass and found a diving Colby Erskin, who made the catch to cut the lead to 21-20.
The White team went for the two-point conversion, but Landi’s pass attempt to Theo Wilson in the corner of the end zone was slightly overthrown, and the Green team rushed the field to celebrate the victory.
“That was an exciting game, as an exciting game in the spring you may ever see,” said coach Jim Leavitt. “You go across the country, and I don’t know if there will be one more exciting than that.”
Daniels finished 11-for-19 with 181 yards passing, adding to his three-touchdown performance. Landi impressed with a 20-for-30 and 189-yard showing, throwing
two touchdowns. Grothe played only in the first quarter and threw for 26 yards.
“We thought initially that we’d play Matt (Grothe) up until the half, but we got him in for a quarter or a series just to get him in there … Our biggest agenda was to go out there and see what the young guys could do,” said offensive coordinator Mike Canales. “Both B.J. (Daniels) and Evan Landi showed really good things for freshman quarterbacks.”
Daniels got out to an impressive start, connecting with junior receiver Dontavia Bogan for a 56-yard strike on the second play of the game. It was a sign of things to come.
Daniels hooked up with Bogan twice more, including a 46-yard game-winning touchdown in the third quarter. Bogan finished with 105 yards receiving.
“We were playing OK out there on the run,” Bogan said. “It was a lot of fun. B.J. and
I were able to connect a few times on some big plays.”
Daniels made big plays with his feet, too. The 6-foot-1, 217-pound Tallahassee native used his speed and agility to scramble all over the field, creating problems for the White team’s defensive line. He finished with 33 yards rushing and one touchdown on the ground.
“I’m always open to try and get out of trouble and make things happen when there’s nothing (open) on offense … I was comfortable out there,” Daniels said.
The biggest defensive play of the game came off Daniels’ arm as well.
With the Green team at the White’s five-yard line, sophomore cornerback Quenton Washington intercepted Daniels’ pass for an interception. Washington eluded a couple of tackles and danced across the goal line for a 95-yard touchdown return to tie the game at 14-14 in the second quarter.
“Wow, ‘Q’ (Washington), what a great play he made. We may have to move him to running back or receiver, because what he did with the ball was really special,” Leavitt said.
USF’s defensive line put together six sacks, forcing constant pressure on the freshman quarterbacks. Senior Aaron Harris led the Green team with three sacks.
Defensive coordinator Joe Tresey said he was impressed with the line’s performance despite the absence of All-American defensive end George Selvie, who sat out as a precaution against injury.
“We were getting good pressure and we only had about five guys or so. Those guys really played an entire football game,” Tresey said. “Usually, we try to run our two deep (substitutes), but we were short, so I was really proud of them and how they played.”
The Bulls have two remaining practices Tuesday and Wednesday to finish up