If USF finds itself in a tight game late in the fourth quarter Friday at Syracuse, Bulls fans should hope the ball is in the hands of B.J. Daniels and the offense.
Though the Bulls are on a four-game losing streak, the offense has put the team in position to win with successful drives late in the fourth quarter in each of their last two games.
Against Cincinnati on Oct. 22, the Bulls were trailing 30-27 when they took possession with 3:37 remaining in the game. Daniels led the offense on a six-play scoring drive that ate 2:10 off the clock and gave the Bulls a four-point lead with less than 90 seconds remaining.
On that drive, Daniels completed all five of his pass attempts to different receivers, including one improvised shovel pass he threw while being tackled that turned into a 19-yard gain for running back Demetris Murray to put the Bulls in the red zone.
Daniels was given even less time Saturday against Rutgers, taking the ball on his own 26-yard line in a 17-17 game with just 31 seconds remaining in regulation. Again, Daniels found Murray for a short pass that turned into a long play, with Murray scampering through the Scarlet Knights’ defense for 34 yards.
On the next play, Daniels improvised again, seeing a gap in Rutgers’ defense and choosing to run. It was the right decision, as he made it all the way to the 9-yard line to set up kicker Maikon Bonani with a chance to win the game. The kick was missed wide left and the Bulls went on to lose 20-17 in overtime.
Offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said Daniels’ “two-minute drill” abilities are a product of his game recognition skills and maturity.
“If you want to teach a quarterback at any level, make him run the two-minute,” he said. “If he can handle that, he can handle anything. … Seeing things quickly and reacting, (Daniels has) done a much better job from year one to year two.”
While the late-game offense clicks, the Bulls are held back by their late-game defense.
Taking the field with a four-point cushion to defend and 87 seconds on the clock against the Bearcats, the defense allowed a 70-yard drive that ensured a homecoming loss for the second straight year.
Daniels’ drive against Rutgers was necessitated by another late, game-tying drive allowed by USF. This time, it was Rutgers that drove 80 yards after getting the ball with 3:23 left to play. On that drive alone, wide receiver Mohamed Sanu caught seven passes – four of which came from favorable matchups against USF linebackers.
“When you get to that (late-game) situation, somebody’s got to make a play,” defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said. “At some point in time, we’ve got to come up with a play. We know the ball is going down the field.”