TALLAHASSEE – USF players held the first row of the railing at Doak Campbell Stadium amid a steady rain Saturday afternoon, encouraging the same steady chant from some 12,000 Bulls fans that ricocheted over and over again: “USF … USF… USF.”
It didn’t stop for quite awhile.
USF coach Jim Leavitt, still soaked in Gatorade, trotted off the field with a smile on his face while offensive coordinator Mike Canales and redshirt freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels shared an embrace in south corner of the stadium.
That’s how big USF’s 17-7 upset over No. 18 Florida State in Tallahassee was, as the Bulls moved closer to making Florida a “Big Four,” rather than a “Big Three.”
“It changes history,” Leavitt said. “I don’t think there’s any question about it. I’ve went on record saying you have to beat one of them. You can’t come close … If people ask me, ‘should (USF) be in the ‘Big Four?’ I say at least we should be talked about once in a while like we’re a team that’s competitive.'”
USF was more than competitive Saturday afternoon. Making his first-career start, Daniels, a Tallahassee native who wasn’t offered by FSU, totaled 341 yards of offense and threw two touchdowns while filling in for the injured Matt Grothe.
“I was just excited to be out there and play hard for my team,” Daniels said. “All week I’ve been preaching (that) it’s not about me, it’s about the Bulls stepping up and making a name for ourselves. The homecoming or whatever you want to call it, it was nice to come back home and play in front of my fans, friends and family, but it was much bigger than that.”
Daniels hit a wide open Theo Wilson for a 77-yard gain early in the second quarter to set up USF’s first score. Shortly after, he connected with tight end Ben Busbee for an 8-yard touchdown pass to give the Bulls a 7-0 lead.
Later in the half, freshman Sterling Griffin got behind the FSU secondary for a 73-yard catch delivered by Daniels.
“The receivers got open. They ran great routes,” Daniels said. “It was just my job to give it to them so all the credit goes to them.”
On defense, USF didn’t allow FSU to score until the start of the fourth quarter.
The Bulls sacked FSU quarterback Christian Ponder five times, recovered four fumbles, held the Seminoles to 19 yards rushing and made a huge goal-line stand on fourth and goal in the second quarter.
“The front four was absolutely relentless,” Leavitt said.
The stand set up Daniels’ most impressive moment, leading USF down the field for five-play, 99-yard scoring drive.
“He just does what he does all the time,” Leavitt said. “I felt really bad for Matt and still feel really bad for Matt. Matt’s a great quarterback in college football. B.J.’s pretty dang good, too. He showed what he can do. The passion and drive was remarkable. It’s a great story.”
Leavitt said Saturday’s win could have a big impact on the University.
“It’s great for the University of South Florida,” he said. “It’s great to see for Tampa and the Tampa Bay area and my home in St. Pete, the whole deal. It’s a historical win. It changes history.”
For more on this story, pick up the Monday edition of the Oracle.