Turnovers doom Bulls in 38-14 loss to Gators
GAINESVILLE -- As much as the 96-yard march for a touchdown on the opening drive set the early tone for USF, and as much as B.J. Daniels' interception with a minute left in the half signaled the first shift of power to No. 8 Florida, the Bulls were still inside the Gators' 20-yard line, driving for a go-ahead score in the third quarter when momentum shifted for good.
The Bulls had gotten a 33-yard by running back Demetris Murray, then a 14-yard scramble by quarterback B.J. Daniels to the 16-yard line, but as USF looked to give Murray the ball again, the handoff wasn't clean. The ball slipped through his hands, Florida recovered, and three plays later, Florida's Jeff Demps broke loose for a 62-yard touchdown run, sparking a run of 21 points in five minutes, the difference in the Gators' 38-14 win at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
That was just one of five turnovers that doomed the Bulls (1-1) -- the other four came on Daniels interceptions -- and USF coach Skip Holtz said his team knew going in they couldn't make mistakes like that and expect to compete on the road with a top-10 program.
"I thought the difference in this football game was turnovers," Holtz said. "I thought our team played hard, but we certainly didn't play smart enough to win. We have on what it takes to win, and turnovers is the No. 1 thing. It is the single biggest statistic that shows winning and losing. It's not yards, not punts, not yards per kickoff return. ... It's turnovers, and I believe we finished at minus-five in that battle today."
Murray had a strong game in last week's opener, and finished with 62 yards and a touchdown against the Gators, but the turnover was what made the biggest impact on the final outcome.
"It happened so quick I really don't know what happened," said Murray, a sophomore from Buford, Ga. "Seeing the hole, the guys up front did a heck of a job, so I guess I might have just tried to hit the hole too quick."
Turnovers were the big problem -- 28 of Florida's points came after USF turnovers -- but responding to turnovers was an issue, what Holtz likes to call "response to sudden change." Last week, the only touchdowns USF allowed came right after two special-teams mistakes, and Saturday, the problem persisted. Immediately after Daniels' first interception, USF gave up a 23-yard pass to the 6-yard line, leading to Florida's first touchdown; three plays after the Murray fumble, the defense gave up its biggest play of the game.
"Obviously, the offense did turn the ball over, but as a defense, you have to go out there and hold them to at least three," safety Mistral Raymond said. "I don't think we did a well enough job of that. We're going to go back to the drawing board and correct those things."
Down 28-7 after the 21-point flurry, USF was still outgaining the Gators in total off ense, but the turnovers were significant enough to overcome everything else and put the game out of reach.
"Outside of the turnovers, it would have been a great football game that would have gone down to the wire," Holtz said. "The difference was Florida did not turn it over and showed a lot of poise. They're an experienced program that's used to winning."