TAMPA, Fla. – Delone Carter rushed for 105 yards and Ryan Nassib finished a 98-yard scoring drive with a touchdown pass to Marcus Sales on Saturday, helping Syracuse win its Big East opener 13-9 over South Florida.
The Orange (4-1, 1-0) is off to its best start since 1999 and matched the number of conference wins Syracuse has had each of the past four seasons, when it went 1-6 in the league.
South Florida (3-2, 0-1) had won five straight in the series by a combined score of 174-53 since entering the Big East in 2005.
Carter and his backup, Antwon Bailey, wore down the South Florida defense on the six-minute drive that put Syracuse ahead for good midway through the fourth quarter. Bailey had a 31-yard run on the march and finished with 81 yards on nine carries.
Carter, the Big East's third-leading rusher at 105 yards per game, amassed his game-high total on 26 attempts as Syracuse ran for 178 yards and finished with 307 yards total offense. Nassib completed 12 of 22 passes for 129 yards, one TD and no interceptions.
B.J. Daniels was 9 of 23 for 124 yards and two interceptions for South Florida. The speedy quarterback, an exceptional runner who's being asked to be more of a pocket passer this season, was sacked four times.
Both teams entered the game largely unproven against major competition. Each had come up short on its only test against BCS opponents — USF falling 38-14 at Florida and Syracuse losing 41-20 at Washington — while beating three overmatched opponents.
A 3-1 start already had the Orange off to their best start since 2003. The Bulls felt good about themselves, too, because they're still adjusting to the offensive and defensive systems that new coach Skip Holtz brought in from East Carolina this season.
USF sputtered offensively after marching from its own 17 to the Syracuse 31, only to have the opening possession of the game end on a sour note when Daniels' pass intended for Dontavia Bogan was intercepted by Da'Mon Merkerson in the end zone.
Daniels locked in on Bogan running up the left sideline and missed Evan Landi who was wide open down the middle of the field.
Bogan later made a nice one-hand catch on a 32-yard reception that set up Bonnani's 31-yard field goal early in the second quarter. The Bulls recovered a muffed punt at the Orange 31, but wasted an opportunity to snap a 3-3 tie when the offense couldn't move the ball and Bonnani's 41-yard attempt sailed wide left.
Antwon Bailey played a big role in Sracuse's first scoring drive, running for 12- and 13-yard gains on consecutive passes and turning a short reception into a 30-yard gain to the USF 18 on third-and-13. Four plays later, Ross Krautman kicked a 35-yard field goal.
Krautman's 35-yarder gave the Orange a brief 6-3 lead early in the third quarter. Lindsey Lamar returned the ensuing 94 yards for a touchdown to put USF ahead, although the Bulls lost a bit of momentum when the extra point was blocked.
Van Chew has four receptions for 59 yards for Syracuse. Bogan had five catches for 67 yards for USF.