TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — There was plenty to like about B.J. Daniels’ performance in South Florida’s season-opening victory over Chattanooga.
“At times, flashes of brilliance,” coach Skip Holtz said after the Bulls’ dual-threat senior threw for three touchdowns and ran for a fourth in a 34-13 rout of Chattanooga in the season opener for both teams.
But Daniels, who threw for 265 yards, had his share of mistakes, too. One came on an interception that set up Chattanooga’s only touchdown. Those kinds of miscues could undermine the Bulls’ chances in the Big East when they begin facing stronger competition in conference play.
“We have to get a lot of things to get polished up,” Holtz said. “We’ve got to get a lot better.”
Daniels tossed scoring passes of 19 yards to Derrick Hopkins, 38 yards to Terrence Mitchell and 39 yards to Sterling Griffin. He finished his night with a 20-yard, fourth-quarter TD run in which he weaved through the Chattanooga defense before stretching the ball over the goal line.
USF’s defense did its part, too, limiting Chattanooga to 151 yards and sacking quarterbacks Terrell Robinson and Jacob Huesman six times.
“I was a little disappointed with our football team. South Florida had a lot to do with that, no question. They’re good,” Chattanooga coach Russ Huesman said. “I told our team they’re going to win a bunch of football games this year, but we can’t be satisfied with how we played.”
Daniels, who completed 17 of 26 passes, enters his final year with the Bulls ranked third on the school’s career list for passing yards, touchdown passes and total offense. He rebounded from a disappointing sophomore season — his first in coach Skip Holtz’s offensive system — to throw for 2,585 yards, 13 TDs and seven interceptions as a junior.
An even bigger priority, though, is trying to lead USF to its first Big East title.
“Our objective tonight was to go 1-0, and that’s what we did,” Daniels said. “I made some good throws and a few bad ones, too. There are a lot of things to work on.”
The Bulls opened a year ago with a road win at Notre Dame that helped them climb into the Top 25. It was a four-week stay that ended when the team lost its conference opener to Pittsburgh, beginning a stretch in which they dropped seven of eight to finish with a losing record (5-7) for the first time in seven years. The Bulls also ended a string of six consecutive bowl appearances.
Robinson started at quarterback for Chattanooga and alternated possessions for much of the night with Huesman, a redshirt freshman who’s the son of the Mocs’ coach. USF sacked Robinson on two of the sophomore’s first three plays, setting the tone for a long night for the entire Chattanooga offense.
A holding penalty and sack of Huesman kept the Mocs from getting into the end zone after driving to the USF 3 late in the second quarter. Nick Pollard wound up missing a 40-yard field goal, but D.J. Key’s interception and 43-yard return put the Mocs back in business less than a minute later.
Williams trimmed USF’s lead to 21-10 at the half with his touchdown run. Henrique Ribeiro’s 46-yard field goal that hit the crossbar and bounced through pulled the Mocs within 27-13 in the final minute of the third quarter.
Huesman completed 9 of 13 passes for 82 yards and no interceptions. Robinson was 4 of 5 for 20 yards and no interceptions.
“We probably had a couple of missed opportunities, but they’re South Florida and it’s tough. They’re a BCS school,” Jacob Huesman said.
“It seemed like they did a good job of film study, and they were just big up front,” Robinson added. “They’re a good team, a very good team.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.