TAMPA — For all the emotion of the week, coming down from the high of winning at Notre Dame then attending Friday's memorial services for Lee Roy Selmon, USF quarterback B.J. Daniels was cool, calm and comfortable in handling Ball State's defense Saturday night.
A week after throwing for 128 yards against the Fighting Irish, Daniels threw for 195 in the second quarter alone and finished with a career-best 359 in leading the No. 22 Bulls to a 37-7 win before an announced 45,113 at Raymond James Stadium.
"Amongst the players, we said we were going to play this game for (Selmon)," Daniels said of USF's former athletic director, Bucs legend and Hall of Famer who died last Sunday. "We didn't want to have any dropoff, anything that wavered. It was terrible news to hear. … We had to come out still and play football."
You could almost say it was over before it started. USF (2-0) took a 7-0 lead just eight seconds into the game when Mike Jeune and Armando Sanchez forced a fumble on the opening kickoff and Mark Joyce returned the loose ball 17 yards for a tone-setting touchdown.
From there, the only gripes coach Skip Holtz had were his offense's red-zone efficiency, settling for three field goals and how backups played in mop-up duty in the second half.
"With so many distractions … it had all the makings of a letdown, of coming out there and playing a little bit flat, not playing with the emotion we needed to play with," Holtz said. "I think it speaks volumes for these players. … I thought the first half was probably, outside of red-zone productivity, the most complete half of football we played since I've been here."
USF outgained Ball State (0-2) 386-76 in the opening half, with second-quarter touchdowns by Demetris Murray then a 20-yard pass from Daniels to receiver Victor Marc for a 30-0 lead. Daniels set career highs for yards, completions and attempts, finishing 28-of-39 and staying in command of the game.
"I think the way he's seeing the field, throwing with accuracy, the comfort level of him in this offense," Holtz said. "He's comfortable in the offense, and it's really showing with what he's doing, the way he's protecting the ball. It's a far cry, these first two games, from where we were at Florida a year ago."
The starters played just two series in the second half, leaving with a 37-0 lead, and Ball State spoiled the shutout in the fourth only after a personal-foul penalty negated a Bulls interception.
"The coach in me wasn't quite as excited about the second half," Holtz said. "I've been talking about the depth of this football team and how we have to continue to get better, and I think that kind of reared its ugly head."
There were new offensive stars for the Bulls — running back Darrell Scott broke loose on a 31-yard hurdle-and-run in the third, finishing with 82 yards and his first touchdown as a Bull; receiver Terrence Mitchell earned his first start and a team-high seven catches for 60 yards; receiver Marc had a team-high 81 yards and a TD pass from Daniels.
"We take it as a pride thing," Daniels said. "We feel like we have a good defense, but we want to be known for moving the ball on offense as well."