Offense leads Bulls to 38-30 upset at Cincy
CINCINNATI -- So that's what USF's offense is supposed to look like.
Quarterback B.J. Daniels made a resounding comeback Friday night, and the Bulls, after two games without an offensive touchdown, hit big plays and third downs and everything they've been missing, upsetting Cincinnati 38-30 at Nippert Stadium.
The Bearcats, two-time defending Big East champs, had won 13 straight conference games, but the Bulls simply outscored them, getting stellar play from Daniels, who played mistake-free and came up with four total touchdowns and big throws when USF needed them.
"I am really proud of this football team, with everything they've been through in the last couple of weeks," coach SKip Holtz said. "I've been talking about how it's not as broke as it looks on the inside. Just really proud of the way they came out and competed. The offense has had a lot of pressure on it here in the last week, and I thought B.J. came in as focused and dialed in as any quarterback I've been around. He was really special tonight, and I was really impressed with him."
Two early touchdowns put the Bulls up 14-3, but that lead was down to 17-16 in the third quarter when Daniels reset the longest play of USF's season twice in a span of two throws. The first was a 64-yard pass to Dontavia Bogan down to the Cincinnati 2, setting up Demetris Murray's touchdown, and then after a key stop on fourth-and-1 by USF's defense, Daniels found receiver Faron Hornes, who used great downfield blocking to speed away to a 70-yard touchdown and a 31-16 lead.
The Bulls (4-3) had never won at Nippert Stadium, losing previous three games there by an average of 17 points, and USF has never lost four times at an opposing stadium. The Bulls are now 4-0 on Friday night games on ESPN2 over the last four seasons. Daniels finished with 286 yards (his second-most ever) and two passing touchdowns on 13-of-16 passing. He also rushed for a team-high 35 yards and two scores.
"It clicked pretty well," Daniels said. "We have things we can still work on, but just to put up points and get that monkey off our back really means a lot, especially to come out with a win."
Cincinnati (3-4) wasn't going away though -- after being stopped on fourth-and-1 on the USF 29, the Bearcats went for it again on the next drive, on fourth-and-6 from the 30. Quarterback Zach Collaros found Barnett again, and he brought in the pass for a 30-yard touchdown, pulling Cincinnati within eight points at 31-23. With 13:45 left in the game, Cincinnati already had three receivers with more than 100 yards of offense.
But USF answered again, on third down no less. Facing a third and 6 at the Cincinnati 41, Daniels found a wide-open Murray for a 39-yard gain to the 2. On third and goal, the Bulls converted again, with Murray blocking as Daniels rolled out to the right for a 1-yard touchdown.
Cincinnati came back again, converting another fourth-and-8 and getting a 15-yard touchdown pass from Collaros to Armon Binns to pull within 38-30 with 5:35 left. After forcing a three-and-out from USF, the Bearcats got one chance, with 3:25 remaining from their 29. WIth backup Chazz Anderson at quarterback after Collaros suffered a leg injury, Cincinnati converted a third-and-19 and got all the way to the USF 16.
Facing a fourth and 5 from the 16 with 16 seconds left, USF got one last stop, forcing Anderson into an incompletion to end the last threat. The defense allowed 590 yards, the most ever by a USF opponent, but did enough to secure a key road win, giving credit to the offense.
"We piggybacked off them tonight," said cornerback Mistral Raymond, who had an interception and a team-best 10 tackles. "They were the guys that really brought the energy and the excitement to the field tonight. It's great for us to see them get into a rhythm like that."
Collaros was prolific, throwing for 463 yards, the most ever against the Bulls, breaking the record of 411 set by Pittsburgh's Tyler Palko in 2004.
The Bulls now have 12 days to prepare for another weeknight game, playing host to Rutgers on Wednesday, Nov. 3, at Raymond James Stadium. The Scarlet Knights have beaten the Bulls by a combined 64 points in the last two seasons.