As productive as USF’s running attack was – 39 carries for 244 yards – in Saturday’s 38-14 loss to No. 8 Florida in Gainesville, the Bulls found little success in the passing game and turned the ball over five times, allowing the Gators to capitalize on their mistakes.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback B.J. Daniels ran for a team-high 107 yards on 17 carries and threw for a score, but he was only 5-of-20 passing. His four interceptions and a costly fumble by running back Demetris Murray in the third quarter led to 28 points off turnovers for Florida.
“The No. 1 statistic in the country that determines wins and losses is turnovers, and I believe we finished minus five in that category today,” USF coach Skip Holtz said. “You are not going to win too many games turning the ball over.”
With the Bulls leading 7-0 late in the first half, Daniels threw an errant pass that was intercepted deep in Bulls’ territory by Florida safety Ahmad Black, who had two interceptions on the day. Three plays later, Florida quarterback John Brantley found wide receiver Carl Moore for an 11-yard touchdown with 44 seconds left before halftime.
Perhaps the biggest blunder for the Bulls occurred on their second possession of the third quarter with the team in the red zone and poised to take back the lead. After Demetris Murray ran for 38 yards on two carries followed by Daniels’ scamper of 14 yards to put USF in prime scoring position at the 16-yard line, Murray had trouble securing a handoff from Daniels, and the ball bounced off his leg and was recovered by Florida defensive end Duke Lemmens.
Three plays later, Florida running back Jeff Demps burst up the left sideline for a 62-yard touchdown to put the Gators up 14-7.
Daniels said he will use the defeat as a learning opportunity.
“There were a lot of things I can definitely change,” he said. “The turnovers definitely hurt. It’s definitely something I’m going to go onto the field and practice next week and hopefully try and fix.”
“Our team has a lot of confidence, and we feel that no one can beat us but us. Today was an example of just us beating ourselves.”
Daniels committed another costly mistake in the third quarter when Florida defensive end Justin Trattou snatched a rushed pass and returned it 35 yards for a score, creating a three-touchdown deficit for the Bulls.
“In my heart, I just want to win – no matter how it happens. We have a lot of athletes and guys around us, and I’m just trying to get it to them,” Daniels said.
Holtz said Daniels is still trying to learn a new system, and while Daniels made some bad decisions that cost the team, he also put the team in position to score with lengthy drives.
“(He) is a great competitor, and he more or less put this football team on his shoulders the opening drive, and we went right down the field,” Holtz said. “He can run and make some things happen. Right now, we did not make some good decisions in the passing game. I can live with an incomplete pass.
“B.J. is a sophomore on the field, and he is a true freshman in this offense. I thought in some split-second decisions today, he did not make some of the wise choices, but he is a tremendous talent. He is a tremendous competitor. It does not bother anybody more than it does him in that locker room.”