Many of USF’s sore spots in the first few games weren’t on display Saturday night as the Bulls put together a solid all-around game in beating Florida Atlantic 31-3.
“It was probably one of the most complete efforts, with offense, defense and kicking … we’ve played all season,” said USF coach Skip Holtz.
After a minus-five turnover ratio in its last two games, the Bulls committed none and forced three (two interceptions and a fumble recovery) against the Owls.
The Bulls tied a school record with seven (all from a different player) sacks after totaling just three in the first three games.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback B.J. Daniels was efficient, completing nearly 75 percent of his passes, a touchdown and no interceptions.
“There are things we want to certainly continue to work on, but we thought he really improved tonight in being efficient with the offense,” said offensive coordinator Todd Fitch.
The Bulls, who came into the game as only one of two Division I schools without a fumble recovery, ended that streak when redshirt freshman safety JaQuez Jenkins recovered one in the fourth quarter.
And the timing was good, with the Bulls entering their first week of practice in preparation for Big East play, which starts Saturday at noon against Syracuse.
“Going into the Big East play, it was great to have a game like this,” junior defensive back Jon Lejiste said “(With the) offense moving the ball, defense getting turnovers, it was a good thing we had a game like this before the Big East started.”
After junior safety Jerrell Young intercepted FAU’s junior quarterback Jeff Van Camp deep in his own territory on FAU’s first offensive series, Bulls senior running back Mo Plancher capped off a five-play, 31-yard scoring drive with a five-yard touchdown run – his first of two scores.
USF sophomore linebacker Armando Sanchez then recovered a blocked punt by USF junior cornerback Quenton Washington in the end zone for a touchdown to make it 14-0 late in the first quarter.
“We end up with the 14 points early in the game, which I thought was big,” Holtz said. “It gave everybody a little bit of breathing room where you didn’t feel like every play was going to be the difference in the game.”
After an underwhelming 24-12 win against Western Kentucky last Saturday, Holtz said the preparation leading up to this game was better.
The Bulls held FAU to just 208 total yards and 1.9 yards per rush. Daniels finished with 155 yards passing and 39 yards rushing on eight attempts.
“I didn’t feel like we were as focused last week as we needed to be going into the game, and we put a big emphasis on that,” Holtz said. “The coaches did a great job in the meeting rooms. The players, they really responded. These guys want to be good. I was really proud of the way they played (Saturday).”