TAMPA — Two months ago, when senior Matt Grothe was lost to a season-ending knee injury, USF's coaches were adamant that they wouldn't scale back the offense for redshirt freshman B.J. Daniels.
But after Daniels piled up 445 total yards in the Bulls' 34-22 win against Louisville on Saturday, those same coaches conceded part of Daniels' comfort against the Cardinals came from a decision to simplify things.
"We've kind of tried to narrow down his reads a little bit," offensive coordinator Mike Canales said after Saturday's win. "Say just go (to pass option) one to two and then take off and go, because you can make explosive plays, instead of trying to force the ball in. That's something he's really done. We've had to do some things to help him."
Though Grothe led the Bulls in rushing in all three of his seasons as a starter, Daniels has shown himself to be even more of a game-changing runner, rushing for more than 100 yards in four of the past eight games. Coach Jim Leavitt acknowledged Saturday that the offense is "a lot different" under Daniels and getting everyone in the same direction has been an ongoing process.
"Mike and him, the whole deal, they have to get on the same page. They've got to get together," Leavitt said, disappointed even though the offense put up 538 yards against Louisville. "We're evolving into an offensive system that we're trying to develop right now. … I know what I want, and we're going to get there."
Canales also credited Daniels' calm in the pocket to the time he spent preparing. Daniels, who played on USF's basketball team last season, didn't attend the Bulls' home opener Monday because he was busy watching tape of Louisville.
"His preparation — I think he was up in the film room until 11:15. I had to get him out of there. 'Get out of here. Go home!' But he was determined to come out and play well this week," Canales said. "When he goes, we go obviously, a little bit."
Daniels, who had three first-half turnovers in USF's 31-0 loss the previous week at Rutgers, said he had a better sense of what he was up against with Louisville. "The picture, as far as the defense, was a little more clear," Daniels said.
He had 34 pass attempts and 22 carries without a turnover, something that has gone hand in hand with his team's success in his seven starts. He led USF (7-3, 3-3 Big East) on five scoring drives of 70 yards or longer — it had four such drives in the previous five games — which was welcomed by the Bulls defense.
"The offense played great," safety Nate Allen said. "They were able to get it rolling, and that helped us out as a defense. Eighty-yard drives and everything, that was good."