E.J. Manuel threw for 242 yards and a touchdown and keyed a third-quarter surge that kept No. 4 Florida State unbeaten with a 30-17 victory over South Florida Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.
The Seminoles (5-0) were clinging to a 13-10 lead midway through the third quarter before tallying 17 consecutive points over a stretch of just over five minutes, with Manuel's one-yard touchdown strike to tight end Kevin Haplea with 5:09 left in the period beginning the run.
Dustin Hopkins later kicked his third field goal of the night to extend the margin to 23-10, and linebacker Christian Jones delivered a 12-yard touchdown return on a fumble recovery on the final play of the third quarter that helped send South Florida (2-3) to its third straight loss and 10th defeat in 13 games over the last calendar year.
The Florida State defense forced three turnovers in all and held the Bulls to 268 total yards, the majority of which came in the first quarter.
Manuel completed 19-of-26 attempts for the game, while Rashad Greene finished with 71 receiving yards and had a 10-yard touchdown run for Florida State.
South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels had a game-high 72 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a losing cause, but managed just 143 yards with an interception on 17-of-33 passes against a Seminoles stop unit that entered the contest ranked second in total defense and fourth against the pass.
The heavily favored Seminoles appeared in control after building a 13-3 halftime lead, but South Florida captured some momentum when Tashon Whitehurst blocked a punt from FSU's Cason Beatty that gave the Bulls the ball at their opponent's eight-yard line less than two minutes into the third quarter.
Three plays later, Daniels crossed the goal line from one yard out to cut the deficit to just three points with 11:55 to go in the stanza.
Following an exchange of punts, Manuel directed a critical seven-play, 63-yard drive that put Florida State back in front by double digits.
The talented senior hit on all three of his throws on the march, which began with a 32-yard connection to Greene that moved FSU into Bulls' territory. A 12-yard run by Chris Thompson later on gave the Seminoles a 1st-and-goal from the USF five, and Manuel capped the possesion by finding Haplea in a third- down situation for a 20-10 cushion.
Florida State then forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, and marched 68 yards in eight plays to set up Hopkins' 23-yard field goal to extend the margin to 13 points in the final minute of the third quarter.
Daniels was briefly knocked out of the game shortly afterward after being hit hard on a 20-yard run that was called back on a holding penalty, and the Seminoles took advantage of backup Matt Floyd's short time on the field.
Defensive end Cornellius Carradine broke free and sacked Floyd on a 3rd-and-12 with the Bulls pinned back near their own end, with Jones scooping up the loose ball and racing untouched into the end zone for a 30-10 lead as time expired in the third quarter.
The Bulls would answer with a six-play, 73-yard series, however, highlighted by a 37-yard catch-and-run by Derrick Hopkins that led to Daniels' three-yard touchdown scamper with 12:37 to go.
USF would get the ball back twice more afterward, but failed to cross the Seminoles' 40-yard line on either ocassion and Florida State ran out the clock following a Daniels incompletion on fourth down with 2:18 left.
The Seminoles spotted USF an early 3-0 lead, but wasted no time regaining the upper hand on their first drive of the night.
Karlos Williams took the ensuing kickoff 59 yards to the Bulls' 37-yard line and Manuel connected on a pair of passes to move Florida State inside the red zone. Two plays later, Greene scored on an end-around from 10 yards out to put Florida State up by a 7-3 count with 8:57 left in the opening quarter.
A 39-yard pass from Manuel to Greene set up a 26-yard Hopkins field goal that extended the Seminoles' edge to 10-3 with under six minutes remaining in the first half, though FSU failed to reach the end zone despite a 2nd-and-goal from the Bulls' one-yard line.
Manuel was initially ruled to have lost a fumble on a botched pitch attempt on the second of those plays, but a replay review showed his knee had hit the ground before getting rid of the ball.
Hopkins misfired on a 48-yard field goal try shortly before halftime, but Florida State quickly got the ball back when Xavier Rhodes intercepted Daniels near midfield on USF's second play of the drive. Hopkins would later make good on a 43-yard attempt to give the Seminoles a 13-3 advantage at intermission.
South Florida compiled 144 total yards -- including 82 rushing -- in the first quarter on FSU's vaunted defense, but could only come up with a Maikon Bonani 32-yard field goal on the game's opening possession. A 25-yard pass from Daniels to tight end Evan Landi led to the score.
Carradine tallied 1 1/2 sacks and now has notched six over his last three games ... The Seminoles improved to 5-0 against Florida teams under head coach Jimbo Fisher, having previously recorded wins over in-state rivals Miami and the University of Florida ... Florida State also moved to 9-1 all-time in games held in Tampa and was making its first appearance in the city since 1979.