S. Fla. stuns No. 18 Florida St.
Most of the more than 12,000 sun-drenched, green-clad boosters remained in their end zone seats chanting "USF, USF," for some 20 minutes after the Bulls defeated No. 18 Florida State 17-7 Saturday. It was the first meeting between the schools and came in front of Florida State's biggest home crowd in four years.
The USF team stormed to the south end zone to salute their fans as the final seconds ticked off the clock. USF President Judy Genschaft, also in green, was leaving her air-conditioned skybox looking for the quickest way to the Bulls locker room.
"Do you believe it?" she said happily as she hurried to an elevator.
"You have to beat them to get talked about," South Florida coach Jim Leavitt said.
"It changes history," he added. "You have to beat them to get talked about. Now I can say we should be talked about."
It was USF's first win over the state's big three — Miami, Florida and Florida State.
"They whupped us," said FSU coach Bobby Bowden, who talked all week about not being eager to play South Florida for the first time. "They're a lot better than I thought."
Bowden and his staff are now also likely to face questions about how they could let a talent like USF quarterback B.J. Daniels get out of town.
Daniels, a redshirt freshman who grew up in Tallahassee and was largely ignored by Florida State recruiters, dismantled the Seminoles' defense with one big play after another in his first career start. He was replacing four-year starter Matt Grothe, the Big East Conference's career total offense leader, who had a season-ending injury last week.
"It feels good playing in front of your friends and your family," Daniels said. "I was very familiar with the people around so I definitely felt comfortable and it wasn't anything to get me nervous."
Daniels ran for 126 yards, threw two touchdown passes and accounted for 341 of USF's 368 yards of offense.
"He's a great athlete," Bulls defensive end George Selvie said. "I'm glad to have him as my quarterback."
"He killed us," Bowden lamented after the game. "Boy, they've got a great one there."
It was the first time since Nebraska's Steve Taylor ran for 139 yards against the Seminoles in 1986 that an opposing quarterback rushed for over 100 yards against them.
The 6-1, 210-pound Daniels said after the game that he chose USF because the school allowed him to also compete in basketball, where he won playing time last winter at point guard.
Florida State (2-2) lost four fumbles, including a critical one by quarterback Christian Ponder that allowed USF to ice the game.
"The way we got beat up on offense, I didn't know we could get beat up like that," Bowden said. "They did everything faster than I thought."
South Florida (4-0) stuffed Florida State's running game, sacked Ponder five times and continually had Florida State's offensive line on its heels.
"The front four was absolutely relentless," Leavitt said. "To hold them to 19 yards rushing was really important."
The Seminoles rushed for 313 yards a week ago in a 54-28 thrashing of then-No. 7 Brigham Young.
Ponder completed 25 of 37 passes for 269 yards, most of it coming on short throws since he didn't have time to go downfield.
South Florida stopped the Seminoles on four plays from the 3-yard line early in the second quarter. USF then needed just five plays to cover 99 yards to get the game's first touchdown.
"That told the story right there," Bowden said.
Daniels hit a wide-open Theo Wilson on a 77-yard pass to the Florida State 8 to set up a TD throw to Ben Busbee on the next play. That put the Bulls up 7-0.
Another huge pass play, this one a 73-yard scoring pass from Daniels to Sterling Griffin, gave USF a 14-0 lead at the half.
"It's a great story, a quarterback coming back home," Leavitt said. "Those things don't happen all the time, but it did today. It did today."