(Saturday, September 26th)
Final Score: South Florida 17, (18) Florida State 7
Tallahassee, FL (Sports Network) - B.J. Daniels proved that South Florida could continue winning without the injured Matt Groethe, throwing for 215 yards and two touchdowns while running for 126 yards in the Bulls' 17-7 win over 18th-ranked Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Daniels completed only 8-of-21 passes and threw two interceptions, but he had two completions of over 70 yards in the Bulls' (4-0) key road victory. It was the first career start for the redshirt freshman, as he replaced the Big East's all-time leader in total offense in Groethe, who tore the ACL in his right knee during last week's win.
Theo Wilson caught only one pass, but it went for 77 yards and helped set up a touchdown. Sterling Griffin added a 73-yard score in the victory, USF's 15th straight over non-conference opponents. Craig Marshall had two sacks for a staunch Bulls defense, which recorded five sacks overall and has now allowed just 27 points all season.
Christian Ponder completed 25-of-37 passes for 269 yards, but Florida State (2-2) committed four turnovers -- all fumbles -- in the loss. The Seminoles rushing attack was held to just 19 yards in the game.
Bert Reed had nine catches for 114 yards -- both career-highs -- and Ty Jones scored the lone touchdown for the Seminoles.
The first quarter was full of good defensive play, and neither team could sustain a drive until late in the period.
South Florida recovered a fumble in Florida State territory with 6 1/2 minutes left, but the Bulls sputtered on offense, and Eric Schwartz missed a 37-yard field goal attempt.
The Seminoles took over on their own 20 and marched 78 yards downfield on 12 plays. The 13th play saw Florida State faced with a 4th-and-goal on the two- yard line early in the second quarter, but the Bulls defense stopped Jones at the one to keep the game scoreless.
On the ensuing USF drive, one big play helped break the tie. On 1st-and-10 from the Bulls' 15, Daniels rolled out and found a wide open Wilson at about midfield. Wilson raced down to the FSU eight-yard line for a 77-yard gain, and Daniels threw a touchdown pass to Ben Busbee on the next play for a 7-0 lead with 11 minutes until halftime.
Ponder appeared to throw a perfect 42-yard touchdown strike to Jarmon Fortson on the next Florida State series, but a holding penalty canceled the play.
The Seminoles looked to tie the game with under three minutes left in the half, but Taiwan Easterling fumbled the ball away inside the opposing 10-yard line. On USF's next offensive play, Daniels found Griffin streaking down the left sideline for a 73-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead heading into the break.
FSU got within the opposing 10-yard line midway through the third quarter, but two sacks set them back 19 yards, and Dustin Hopkins missed a 44-yard field goal to keep the shutout intact. On their next drive, the Seminoles committed another turnover on a lost fumble in USF territory.
A 63-yard punt return by Greg Reid set up Florida State at the USF 25 less than a minute into the final quarter, and this time they put some points on the board. Ponder threw to Bert Reed for 22 yards on the first play, and Jones ran for a three-yard score to halve the deficit with 13:35 remaining.
Ochucko Jenije intercepted a Daniels pass with six minutes left in the fourth to give FSU the ball at their own 23, but Ponder fumbled on the next play, and the Bulls recovered at the Seminoles' 13. Schwartz hit a 27-yard field goal with just under four minutes left for three crucial points and a 17-7 lead.
Florida State couldn't do anything on its next drive, and Ponder was sacked on fourth down near midfield to hand the ball back to USF. The Bulls were able to run off the final three minutes of game time to seal the win.
It was the first-ever meeting between the two Florida schools...Florida State lost for the first time when Ponder didn't throw an interception. It had been 7-0...South Florida opens up its conference schedule at Syracuse next week, while Florida State travels to Boston College for an ACC matchup...Groethe had started USF's last 41 games and accounted for 10,875 total yards of offense in his Bulls' career before the injury.
09/26 16:52:54 ET