Ball St.-South Florida Preview

BY foxsports • September 9, 2011

South Florida coach Skip Holtz was proud of how his team went into a hostile stadium amid bad weather and still came away with a big victory.

Being able to handle such adversity may be a good sign with the program entering a game ranked for the first time since his arrival.

The No. 22 Bulls try to avoid a letdown when they host Ball State on Saturday.

After an eight-win 2010 season - Holtz's first with South Florida - the Bulls got off to an impressive start in 2011 with a 23-20 victory over then-No. 16 Notre Dame last Saturday in South Bend.

Two weather delays stopped the game for nearly three hours, but the Bulls kept the pressure on the Irish. South Florida forced four turnovers, including a first-quarter fumble that was returned 96 yards for a touchdown.

"There were a lot of opportunities to flinch today, but they handled themselves," Holtz said. "It's a great win for South Florida."

The victory moved the Bulls into the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2009. They spent three weeks in the poll that season but dropped out for good in mid-November.

"After the end of the year we'll talk about the rankings and all that because that's the only time it really matters," said Holtz, who last coached a ranked team with East Carolina in September 2008. "So what we've got to do right now is just focus on what we've got to do on a day-to-day basis."

To step up to the next level, Holtz's team needs to improve on offense. Although weather likely factored, the Bulls were outgained 508-254.

However, the efficient play of quarterback B.J. Daniels was promising. He went 18 of 30 for 128 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He also rushed for 37 yards.

This will be Daniels' third season as the starter, but he's struggled at times leading the offense. Daniels finished with 13 interceptions to 11 touchdowns last year while completing only 58.4 percent of his passes.

His scrambling ability also has been an issue. After rushing for 772 yards in 2009, he had only 259 last year - 19 in the final four games on 29 attempts.

"It's about taking the next step," Daniels said.

Ball State also is coming off a big victory in its opener.

Keith Wenning threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, leading the Cardinals to a 27-20 win over Indiana last Saturday in coach Pete Lembo's debut.

"The most important people are those guys in the locker room," Lembo told the school's official website. "They have been through a lot of highs and lows. I have said this a million times, the way they have embraced our coaching staff is incredible."

The Cardinals rushed for 210 yards, led by freshman Jahwan Edwards' 84 on 16 carries. Barrington Scott ran for 63 yards and Wenning had 61.

Wenning, who completed just 54.5 percent of his passes last season, was 23 of 29 for 173 yards without throwing an interception.

Ball State, coming off a 4-8 season, has lost 10 in a row to ranked teams since a 24-20 win over Toledo in 2001.

This is the first meeting between the programs.


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