QB Daniels' ups and downs mirror Bulls'
Redshirt freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels has carried a considerable majority of USF's offense in his first six starts, but the Bulls' 3-3 record in those games coincides with his ability to limit his mistakes.
Daniels has accounted for 77 percent of USF's total offense since taking over as starter. In the Bulls' three wins, he has seven touchdowns and two turnovers; in their three losses, he has two touchdowns and seven turnovers.
"B.J. struggled tonight. You saw that," coach Jim Leavitt said after Thursday's 31-0 loss at Rutgers, in which Daniels had three first-half turnovers. "He made some mistakes. For a freshman quarterback, of course, you know, Rutgers has a freshman quarterback and he did fine. B.J.'s done pretty good overall. Tonight wasn't the night. He's played some pretty good games. Tonight certainly wasn't."
Daniels was sacked six times, struggled to adjust to Rutgers' blitzes and was held to a season-low 11 rushing yards on 16 attempts. Offensive coordinator Mike Canales had discussed Rutgers' penchant for blitzes earlier in the week and said USF's struggles weren't because of a lack of preparation.
"I thought we were prepared. I thought we prepared for a week and a half very well. We couldn't have done any more blitzing than we did," Canales said. "Obviously, we didn't handle it when the bullets were flying. We have to go back to the drawing table."
USF's offense did not take a snap in the Rutgers red zone, with no offensive play deeper than the 24-yard line. Rutgers, by comparison, had 16 plays at the 24 or deeper in the first half alone, not counting a 25-yard touchdown on their opening drive. Of USF's 49 offensive plays, more than half -- 28 in all -- failed to gain any yards.
Canales said "it seemed like we were dysfunctional at times" on offense, taking ownership of the unit's struggles -- the 159 total yards are the lowest for USF since joining the Big East, and the seven total first downs matched the program's record low.
"We had no answers ... that's on me," Canales said. "It's my responsibility to make sure we play well. ... We had some turnovers early and lost our rhythm, and then they got blitzing after us and we just didn't handle it."
Daniels said he would not relate USF's up-and-down play with its relative youth, and said the key to the remaining three games is in how the Bulls are able to move past their three losses in the last four games.
"We can't think about 'Aw, man, we were winning and then we lost.' That's poison that can kill a locker room," he said. "It's definitely something we'll think about now and on the plane ride, but we have to move on quickly."
USF returns home to play Louisville on Nov. 21 for homecoming, then has Miami at home on Nov. 28 and finishes the regular season at Connecticut on Nov. 5. The Bulls need one more win to become bowl eligible and continue a streak of bowls in four consecutive seasons.