Daniels, defense give USF huge upset at FSU
TALLAHASSEE -- Jim Leavitt called it "a very historical win," and the biggest in USF's 13-year history by his standards, but the question remained: What was the most incredible part of the Bulls' 17-7 upset of No. 18 Florida State?
By all means, it could be redshirt freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels, making his first career start on the road in his hometown and racking up 341 yards of total offense with the kinds of long passes and open-field scrambling that his predecessor, Matt Grothe, was known for.
"All week, I've been preaching to my teammates: It's not about me," said Daniels, who had the words "ONLY" and "GOD" written on black strips under his eyes. "It's about the Bulls stepping up and making a name for ourselves."
Daniels' two second-quarter touchdown passes gave the Bulls (4-0) an improbable 14-0 halftime lead, but wait. Was that a zero on the scoreboard into the fourth quarter? Against an FSU offense that had scored 54 one week earlier in routing then-No. 7 BYU?
The Bulls defense, which had given up 100-yard rushers against lightweights Wofford and Western Kentucky, forced four fumbles, made a huge goal-line stand and held FSU to 19 rushing yards, one week after they piled up 300.
"It's a Florida deal," first-year defensive coordinator Joe Tresey explained. "These kids played against each other in high school. George Selvie wasn't recruited by Florida State, and he's in Pensacola, right down the road. He wasn't good enough to play here, and most of our kids weren't good enough to play for these guys. They came in with a little chip on their shoulder. They just deep down wanted to show up and show they could play."
The attitude was evident in physical play, with many a gold FSU helmet sent flying -- safety Jon Lejiste leveled running back Tavares Pressley in the first quarter, forcing a fumble.
"We came out and hit them in the mouth," said Selvie, who got one of five sacks of FSU quarterback Christian Ponder. "We came out and played relentless, and that's how we play on defense."
And when the defense made plays, Daniels responded with huge plays of his own, both with his legs -- a game-high 126 yards -- and two 70-yard bombs that put USF on the scoreboard.
The key sequence in the game came in the second quarter, the game still scoreless when FSU (2-2) had first and goal at the 3. After two plays, the Seminoles were at the 1-yard line, but USF (4-0) made a big stop, and when FSU went for it on fourth down, the Bulls stopped them again.
Four plays later, Daniels found a wide-open Theo Wilson for a 77-yard pass to the 8-yard line, setting up a wide-open touchdown to tight end Ben Busbee.
"His maturity level is unbelievable," said offensive coordinator Mike Canales, who lost a four-year starter in Grothe to a season-ending knee injury last week. "He's so poised. He's so confident in what he does. ... We weren't going to be conservative."
Another 14-point swing came late in the second quarter, as FSU was driving again, only to see linebacker Sabbath Joseph force a fumble from receiver Taiwan Easterling inside the 10-yard line that linebacker Kion Wilson recovered. On the next play, Daniels found true freshman receiver Sterling Griffin for a 77-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
The much-awaited first meeting between the two schools packed 83,524 into sold-out Doak Campbell Stadium, the second-most ever to see a Bulls game and most at FSU since 2005. That crowd including a loud, green corner of 12,000 fans who made the trip up from Tampa, hopeful of an upset despite their Bulls being 14-point underdogs.
"Boy, I tell you what, they are a whole lot better than I thought," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "I knew they were good, but ... they beat the heck out of us."
FSU left countless points on the board, with the goal-line stand, another touchdown brought back by penalty, a missed field goal. The Seminoles got zero points from their first three trips inside the USF 10.
FSU finally scored early in the fourth quarter, when Greg Reid's 63-yard punt return set up a 3-yard score by Ty Jones. FSU twice had the ball down by a touchdown, but a chop block penalty doomed the first drive, and then defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul sacked Ponder to force a fumble on the next.
The biggest win in school history? Selvie agreed, for two months or so.
"This one ranks No. 1. It's Florida State, so it's got to rank No. 1," Selvie said. "It might move to No. 2 when we play Miami. We'll see."