PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Redshirt freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels has carried a majority of USF's offense in his six starts. But its 3-3 record in those games coincides with his ability to limit mistakes.
Daniels has accounted for 77 percent of USF's offense since replacing the injured Matt Grothe. In three wins, he has seven touchdowns and two turnovers. In three losses, he has two touchdowns and seven turnovers.
"B.J. struggled," coach Jim Leavitt said after Thursday's 31-0 loss at Rutgers, in which Daniels threw two interceptions and fumbled once. "He made some mistakes. Rutgers has a freshman quarterback, and he did fine. B.J.'s done pretty good overall. (Thursday) wasn't the night."
Daniels was sacked six times, struggled to adjust to blitzes and was held to a season-low 11 yards on 16 carries. Offensive coordinator Mike Canales discussed Rutgers' penchant for blitzing earlier in the week and said USF's struggles weren't because of a lack of preparation.
"I thought we prepared for a week and a half very well," he said. "Obviously, we didn't handle it when the bullets were flying. We have to go back to the drawing table."
USF's deepest penetration was the Rutgers 24. Rutgers, by comparison, ran 16 plays at the USF 24 or deeper in the first half alone, not counting a 25-yard touchdown on its first drive. Of USF's 49 plays, more than half — 28 in all — failed to gain yards.
The 159 total yards were the fewest since joining the Big East in 2005, and the seven first downs tied a school record.
"It seemed like we were dysfunctional at times," Canales said. "We had no answers. 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 blame USF's up-and-down play on his youth and said the key to the remaining three games is how it responds. Of those, the Bulls (6-3, 2-3 Big East) must win one to become bowl eligible after starting the season 5-0.
"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."
Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3346.