Fitch left booth before Daniels' pivotal INT
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – Perhaps the most surprising part of B.J. Daniels’ costly interception in the final minute of the first half Thursday night was that offensive coordinator Todd Fitch didn’t see the play, having already left the press box to join the team at halftime.
USF had called a time out with 1:02 left and got the ball on its 13-yard line with 52 seconds left, and rather than go into halftime down 10-3 with the ball to open the second half, Daniels attempted a pass to receiver Evan Landi that was intercepted by West Virginia’s Robert Sands and returned 28 yards to the 7. West Virginia scored on the next play for a 17-3 halftime lead.
“It was a minute to go, defense had the ball,” Fitch said of his decision to leave the press box before the end of the half. “It’s a long walk here, to get down you have to hike here. We usually would come down in that situation because we have halftime. ... For me to critique his play wouldn't be fair because I didn't see the route.”
USF coach Skip Holtz said he specifically told Daniels to throw a sideline pass, and if it wasn’t there, to throw the ball away to avoid the same mistake the Bulls committed at Florida in September, allowing the Gators to score a tying touchdown.
“I should have learned something at Florida,” Holtz said, accepting “some of the blame” for the change in momentum. Daniels said he had been told to guard against a turnover, but also wanted to score before halftime.
“He said to be careful, of course,” Daniels said. “But he’s also trying to get the ball down the field and score, to put points on the board.”
To think USF's offense could get in scoring position from its 13 in 52 seconds was optimistic Thursday -- the Bulls had only one drive of more than 31 yards all night, that a 50-yarder that resulted in a field goal. That drive took 4:45 to complete, and even 50 yards of offense from the 13 would have only put the Bulls in position for a 54-yard field goal attempt.
Cornerback Mistral Raymond said USF’s defense should have stepped up regardless of the situation, but it wasn’t how the Bulls wanted to end the half.
“We had a similar situation up in Gainesville,” Raymond said. “It’s not the position you want to be in. There’s nothing comfortable about getting backed up inside your 10-yard line. But you’ve got to find a way to man up and defend.”
Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder, who was very pleased by his defense’s effort in holding West Virginia’s offense in check, said it’s his job to stop opponents from scoring, no matter how bad the situation.
“You play defense, you have to stop people. That does not bother me,” Snyder said. “Where I came from, being a defensive coach, you hold them out. That’s what you do.”
Daniels has four interceptions in the final 75 seconds of the first half this season, with two against Florida, another against Western Kentucky and Thursday’s mistake.