TAMPA — Lost in the blur of a 70-point explosion Saturday against Florida A&M and a Big East record 745 yards of total offense was a play that showed another way USF QB B.J. Daniels has improved this fall: He's physically stronger.
Leading 35-14 and backed up on his 12-yard line, Daniels dropped back to pass, and a blitzing FAMU defensive back came at him unblocked. In one move, Daniels grabbed the blitzer with his left hand and threw him down into the end zone, promptly dodged another diving defender, scrambled left and calmly fired a pass to WR Sterling Griffin for an 18-yard gain, even as another defender came flying at him.
"It was a pure play of strength," quarterback coach Peter Vaas said Sunday, having used the play in a film session as an opportunity to teach his younger quarterbacks the value of extra time with the strength and conditioning staff. "That strength comes through hard work in the weight room. It has a direct effect in the game. It's more than just showing up for the game. It's the preparation that goes into it, through hard work bright and early in the morning."
Two plays later, Daniels hit RB Darrell Scott for an 84-yard touchdown pass, a big chunk of a half in which Daniels threw for 355 yards, 4 yards less than his previous high for a game. Daniels said that in watching the replay Sunday, he was surprised how unfazed he looked under the circumstances.
"I was scared, actually," Daniels said. "I looked down, saw my feet and I was in the end zone. I was like, 'Man, I don't want to get a safety.' So I guess my nature was to try to get out of there. I tried to keep my eyes downfield and hit guys that are open."
Sales down: USF football's season ticket sales for 2011 finished down about 6 percent from 2010, with 22,211 total season tickets distributed, about 1,200 fewer than last season.
The Bulls sold 18,967 season tickets, executive associate athletic director Bill McGillis said, with another 3,244 allotted for staff use, spirit squads and trade with sponsors. Last year, those totals were 20,236 sold and another 3,228 used for a total of 23,464.
McGillis said there were strong gains in a few key areas — group sales are at four times what they were a year ago, and single-ticket sales have more than doubled through USF's first two home games (against Ball State and Florida A&M).
This and that: It has been only two years since UTEP beat a ranked opponent, having upset No. 12 Houston in 2009, but the last time the Miners beat a team from a major (top six) conference? Go all the way back to 1967, when UTEP beat Mississippi 14-7 on its homefield in the Sun Bowl. It's a streak of 39 games since then, though the Miners gave Texas Tech a scare in 2006, going to overtime before falling 38-35. The Miners play at USF on Saturday night. … Fresh off a 2-0 home win Sunday against a Cal-Irvine team ranked as high as No. 10, USF men's soccer goes after the nation's longest home winning streak when the Bulls open Big East play Sunday at West Virginia, which has won 13 straight at home. USF's women's soccer team faces defending national champion Notre Dame in Tampa on Thursday.
Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.