Bulls grounded after Gators roll in Swamp

There’s no telling what a win against Florida would have meant for USF’s football program, but even with a loss, coach Skip Holtz reminded his team there’s essentially an entire season left.

USF turned the ball over five times, and Florida outscored the Bulls 38-7 after the first quarter for a 38-14 win in front of a sold-out Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

“I’m more concerned about how we respond to it than I am just this game,” Holtz said after the game. “This is one of 12. At the end of the day, it’s going to go in the loss column. We’ve got to grow from this and keep moving forward.”

Leading up to the game, Holtz said his team would have to play a near perfect outing to win. The Bulls started strong, and there was a sense that the Bulls had the Gators on their heels for most of the first half.

But after Daniels threw an interception in his own territory right before halftime, the Gators seemed to grab momentum after quarterback John Brantley connected with senior Carl Moore for an 11-yard touchdown to tie the score at 7-7.

“I give Florida an awful lot of credit,” Holtz said. “They’re a team that’s been here. They know how to win. I thought they showed great poise.”

After holding Florida to a three-and-out on its first offensive possession, the Bulls, pinned inside their own five-yard line, raced down the field with a 17-play, 96-yard scoring drive that ate up nearly 10 minutes and seemed to take the air out of the crowd at Florida Field.

Holtz said he wasn’t surprised with how his team started.

“I think the drive was a result of their confidence coming into this game,” he said. “They were extremely competitive. That’s why I’m so proud of this football team. They came in here and thought they could win.”

“I thought our team played hard. We certainly didn’t play smart enough to win. If we don’t turn and serve up a couple turnovers the way we did, I thought this would be a heck of a finish.”

In all, USF had five turnovers, including four interceptions thrown by USF redshirt sophomore quarterback B.J. Daniels.

“I’m fine,” Daniels said. “We can gain a lot. There are a lot of lessons to be learned.  There’s a lot of film to be watched. It can definitely help us in the Big East.”

Holtz said before the game that a loss against the Gators, who are now ranked No. 7 in the coaches’ poll, wouldn’t be the end of what USF is trying to accomplish this season.

The Bulls (1-1) have a bye week and then two consecutive home games against Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic before they begin Big East play next month.

“You have to praise Florida for the way they played for 60 minutes,” said senior cornerback Mistral Raymond. “As a football team, we just have to regroup and figure out why the energy wasn’t there in the second half.”