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Daniels, offense battle adversity

Quarterbacks are praised when their team wins, but they take a lot of heat when their team loses.

Coming off two consecutive losses in the Big East, no one realizes that more than USF redshirt freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels.

“Right now, it’s sitting on me,” he said. “We – me especially – just need to do what we’re supposed to do to come out with a win.”

Daniels is coming off one of the worst games of his young career in a 41-14 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday, throwing two interceptions and gaining only 54 passing yards. Despite the lack of production, coaches and players said they still see him as someone who can carry the Bulls.

“We know what he can do. He knows what he can do,” said junior wide receiver Carlton Mitchell, the Bulls’ leading receiver with 410 yards. “B.J. will continue to get better and better every game. I haven’t seen where he’s declining in anything … B.J. is going to be fine.”

USF coach Jim Leavitt backed his quarterback Monday.

“He works so hard and it means so much to him. We put a lot on a quarterback. We ask a lot out of him,” Leavitt said.

However, Daniels was asked to throw only eight times Saturday and spent most of his time trying to use his legs to get through the Panthers’ defense.

At Monday’s press conference, Daniels said he was surprised at the lack of throwing plays by USF offensive coordinator Mike Canales, as the Bulls rushed 33 times compared to 13 passing attempts despite trailing by 34 points in one portion of the game.

“I would love to throw more, but during the course of the game that wasn’t what I was thinking about,” Daniels said. “The thing that was heavy on my mind was that we needed to put up points and we needed to do it fast.”

On Monday, Leavitt said how important it is for the USF passing game to get going.

“We’re going to have to throw the ball,” he said. “We’re not going to sit there and run 80 times in a game.”

But, as the coaches acknowledged after the game Saturday, most quarterbacks go through growing pains early in their career. Sometimes it just takes time to work out the kinks, Canales said.

“We’ve got to realize he’s a freshman. There’s no excuse for it and you have to continue to work through it,” he said. “He’ll do that.”

Leavitt: Losing isn’t because of lack of effort

When Leavitt watched film of Saturday’s defeat, he actually saw something he liked – something he admired.

“There were a couple of things I really wanted to see,” Leavitt said. “I wanted to see if any of our guys were not playing their tail off. That’s really important to me. If you have any guy on that field who isn’t laying his heart and soul out on the field for 60 minutes, you really want to have a talk with him.”

Despite giving up nearly 500 yards to Pittsburgh and USF gaining just over 200 yards on offense, Leavitt said he didn’t see a lack of effort.

“I promise you, I looked at it close,” Leavitt said. “That I did not find. Nobody likes to lose, but that’s encouraging to me. The guys really battled.”

So what was it?

“We had some breakdowns in our coverage where guys know they have to be over the top of the receivers,” Leavitt said. “If they throw underneath us, it happens. We let some guys get behind us. It’s not because of effort, we didn’t play the techniques and things we’re coached to do.”

Senior cornerback Jerome Murphy was beat deep by Pittsburgh receiver Jonathan Baldwin on a long touchdown throw and the Panthers’ receivers continued to beat the Bulls’ secondary, finishing with 272 receiving yards. USF committed nine penalties as well.

That’s concentration, though, not effort, Leavitt said.

“The second half, I looked at it all the way through,” he said. “You know the score was one-sided. It wasn’t because of effort.”