When Bulls needed TD, offense went 80 yards
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- After a two-hour lightning delay, Notre Dame had seized momentum Saturday night, outgaining USF 159-48 in the third quarter and cutting the Bulls' lead to 16-7. With the crowd behind it, the Fighting Irish's defense had held USF to just 30 yards in three second-half possessions.
But after a 30-yard missed field goal, USF got the ball at its 20-yard line, and quarterback B.J. Daniels and running back Demetris Murray gave the Bulls exactly what they needed: a long, sustained drive that ended with USF's first offensive touchdown of the night.
"I joked with Coach (Skip) Holtz back in Vero Beach that field goals didn't count," said Daniels, who went 18-for-30 for 128 yards and rushed for 37 yards despite being slowed by cramps and a hamstring injury in the second half. "We've got to score touchdowns, and that was a drive that we needed to get the ball in the end zone."
USF hadn't had a drive longer than 45 yards all day, but Daniels led the Bulls on a 14-play, 80-yard march that ended with Daniels lobbing a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Evan Landi. It wasn't easy, but the Bulls kept their defense off the field for more than five minutes and kept the suddenly-clicking Irish offense off the field.
It started with Daniels' longest pass of the night, a 19-yard crossing route on second-and-17 to receiver A.J. Love, a sixth-year senior playing for the first time in 20 months after missing the 2010 season with a knee injury. Facing a third-and-10 play and having gone 1-for-11 on third downs for the day, Daniels found tight end Andreas Shields for a 12-yard gain and another first down.
Then Murray, who started the game at running back but had just 2 carries for 5 yards in the first three quarters, caught some momentum, rushing four times for 28 yards, the last coming on a 12-yard burst to the 2-yard line.
There, USF's drive nearly stalled again -- inexplicably, USF was flagged for sending 12 men onto the field after a time out, so instead of third-and-goal from the 1, it was from the 6. But Daniels' pass into the end zone drew a pass interference flag on cornerback Gary Gray, setting the Bulls up on the Notre Dame 1.
Daniels hesitated, then lobbed a pass straight ahead that Landi caught around a Notre Dame defender as he fell backwards.
"It wasn't the look we anticipated. B.J. made a beautiful throw and all I had to do was catch it, to be honest," Landi said. "I think me and B.J., we kind of click a lot, so I knew where he was going to put it."