B.J. Daniels was good, just not good enough to beat Florida State again.
South Florida's dual-threat star threw for 143 yards and ran for 72 more and two touchdowns Saturday night in a 30-17 loss to the fourth-ranked Seminoles. He kept the Bulls close into the second half, but couldn't replicate the upset he engineered three years ago when he returned to his hometown of Tallahassee beat team he grew up rooting for in his first college start.
"B.J. did a great job. He's a great leader ... a four-year starter, which is awesome. That says enough right there," Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel said. "Great person. Great personality, and he has a cannon of an arm. Our defense, they're tough to go against, but I thought he still had a great day."
The win avenged the 2009 loss to USF, though few gave the Bulls much of a chance this time following losses the previous two weeks to Rutgers and Ball State.
Manuel threw for 242 yards and one touchdown. Receiver Rashad Greene ran for an early TD, while linebacker Christian Jones scored on a 12-yard fumble return and Penn State transfer Kevin Haplea had a 1-yard TD reception during a critical stretch in the third quarter as the Seminoles pulled away.
Even in defeat, South Florida (2-2) felt it took a step forward. The Bulls resume their Big East schedule next week.
"Overall, if we play with this kind of energy and passion, I feel good about where we're going," USF coach Skip Holtz said.
The game changed dramatically on a play Daniels missed after being knocked woozy by a hit at the end of a 20-yard run that was wiped out by a holding penalty.
With the clock showing no time remaining in the third quarter, the officials announced the period would end with an untimed down. Freshman Matt Floyd came off the bench to replace Daniels on third-and-12 from the USF 23. The backup was sacked at the 12 by Cornelius Carradine, who forced a fumble that Jones scooped up and returned for a TD. That put the Seminoles up 30-10.
"B.J. wasn't ready to go on the play. ... And even if he had said he was ready to get back in there, I probably wouldn't have let him at that point," Holtz said. "We felt like we needed to check him out."
Daniels, who scored a 1-yard run in the third quarter, returned after the sack-fumble to lead a 73-yard scoring drive that he finished with a 3-yard TD burst but there would be no miraculous comeback.
"We gave them 10 points off turnovers and that killed us," Bulls running back Demetris Murray said. "I feel like we got better tonight, but we hurt ourselves."
Manuel completed 19 of 26 passes with no interceptions and Dustin Hopkins kicked three field goals for Florida State, which was coming off a 49-37 victory over Clemson -- the Seminoles' first win over an opponent ranked in the top 10 since 2009, the year FSU lost 17-7 to USF on the way to finishing 7-6 in coach Bobby Bowden's final season.
Daniels accounted for 341 yards total offense in USF's victory over the Seminoles three years ago, including 126 rushing. He's been a virtual one-man show at times this season, but had plenty of help in keeping the Bulls close after Florida State took a 7-3 lead on Greene's TD run on the Seminoles' first possession of the night.
Showing what's become a rare commitment to the ground game, the Bulls held the ball for more than 10 minutes of the opening quarter to keep Manuel and the rest of Florida State's explosive playmakers off the field for extended stretches. Time of possession began to even out by halftime, with Hopkins kicking field goals of 26 and 43 yards -- the latter following the first of USF's three turnovers -- to make it 13-3.
USF drove 62 yards following the opening kickoff to take a 3-0 lead on Maikon Bonani's 32-yard field goal, then didn't score again until Tashon Whitehurst blocked a punt and recovered at the Seminoles' 8 to set up the Daniels TD run that trimmed the Bulls' deficit to three points early in the third quarter.
"We came in thinking we could win the game. We didn't need to block a punt to believe that," Holtz said.
Daniels connected on 17 of 33 passes and was intercepted once for the Bulls, who have dropped three straight after beginning with wins over Chattanooga and Nevada.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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