Changes abound since USF's upset of FSU

BY foxsports • September 28, 2012

For South Florida, the win was a launching pad. The Bulls had broken through and made a statement: They were a player in the Sunshine State.

For Florida State, the loss was part of the crumbling end to coach Bobby Bowden's dynasty. The Seminoles' mistakes also made a statement: They were susceptible to a loss on any given week.

That was September, 26, 2009, after South Florida shocked No. 18 FSU 17-7. B.J. Daniels, who grew up in Tallahassee and played at Lincoln High, was making his first college start but was poised and ran for 126 yards and threw for 215 yards and two touchdowns.

There were 83,524 fans at Doak Campbell Stadium that day, but by late in the fourth quarter, most of those in garnet and gold had left. The approximately 10,000 USF fans took over and, in the house known for the warchant and the chop, it was replaced by chants of "U-S-F, U-S-F, U-S-F." And it continued well after the game was over.

FSU had four turnovers, looking completely the opposite of a team that had knocked off No. 7 BYU on the road just a week earlier.

"They are a whole lot better than I thought," Bowden said that day. "They whooped us."

Only a handful of players that participated in that 2009 game are still on the rosters of USF and FSU. The game was played three years ago Wednesday, but the names have changed.

When the teams face off again Saturday in Tampa, just a few FSU players, like Everett Dawkins, Chris Thompson and Lonnie Pryor, are still on the roster. Daniels and a handful of players who played in the 2009 game are now seniors at USF.

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher was the Seminoles' offensive coordinator that day in 2009, and he was quick to dismiss any link between that game and Saturday's game.

"They're a new staff, new group, new team," Fisher said of USF, but in many ways the same is true of FSU. "It's two different teams. That game is in the past."

Three years in college football might as well be light years. The coaching staffs and rosters have changed dramatically.

Perhaps the only similarity is the fact that the Bulls were heavy underdogs in 2009 and are again a 17-point underdog on Saturday.

Few knew what to expect as Daniels stepped in for injured starter Matt Grothe three years ago. But Daniels didn't look like a redshirt freshman. And USF's defense forced four turnovers and held the Seminoles to just 19 rushing yards.

In the FSU locker room, there was dismay.

"Shock," Dawkins said. "Nobody expected it. Everybody was down. … USF was a good team, too. The mentality some of the players might have had going into that week was not taking them as serious as we should have. Now we do."

The word "revenge" is thrown around often. But is it even a factor three years later? Most FSU players brush it off.

For USF and FSU, the changes since then have been significant. Both teams have new head coaches since then. Many of the assistant coaches and players that participated in that game are elsewhere, too.

FSU's loss to USF turned up the heat on Bowden, and he was forced into retirement after the 2009 season (Fisher was promoted after holding the title of head-coach-in-waiting). Fisher helped change the attitude of the players, some of whom had become complacent during the 7-6 seasons.

"I just think it was a different culture then," FSU linebacker Vince Williams said. "Now we have different leaders and that kind of attitude isn't acceptable. It doesn't even exist in this team.

"We had some people that they were so used to losing that they didn't know how to overcome adversity."

FSU has faced plenty of adversity the past three seasons, but it won 10 games and the ACC's Atlantic Division in 2010 and then went 9-4 in 2011. The Seminoles are No. 4 in the nation and off to a 4-0 start this season.

The USF-FSU game was three years ago and fresh to so many people the rivalry. But in other ways it's a distant memory.

"That was light years ago," said Williams, who redshirted in 2009 due to a back injury. "We're so far past and more advanced than we were then."