TORONTO — After leading a strong USF defense with two tackles for loss Saturday, after celebrating at midfield with his signature standing back flip, the big question left for DE Jason Pierre-Paul was whether he had played his final game with the Bulls.
"I'm in the middle," said Pierre-Paul, who said he expects to make a decision about entering the NFL draft in the next week; the deadline for underclassmen is Jan. 15.
ESPN.com's draft experts have projected Pierre-Paul as a potential first-round pick despite playing only one year of major college football. Colts president Bill Polian was among the NFL personnel in attendance, and Pierre-Paul said he has had a memorable season.
"I came here (to USF) and nobody knew who I was," he said. "All week in practice, we had fun in Toronto, but all week we practiced hard. The defense made plays, and we executed it in the game."
ANOTHER RECORD: Junior WR Carlton Mitchell, who holds the USF career record for receiving yards, broke the single-season record of 661 yards set by Hugh Smith in 2002. Mitchell had six catches for 94 yards, both game highs, to finish his season with 706 yards.
BUSY STRETCH: Senior CB Jerome Murphy played a strong final game with six tackles and two pass breakups, but more notably had a hand in three turnovers in a span of two plays in the third quarter.
LB Sabbath Joseph forced a fumble from NIU RB Chad Spann and returned it 13 yards before fumbling. NIU recovered and on the next play, QB Chandler Harnish threw a deep pass that Murphy intercepted and returned 23 yards, setting up USF's second touchdown and giving the Bulls a 20-3 lead.
HIGHLIGHT REEL: QB B.J. Daniels was dropped for losses plenty Saturday — he had minus-35 rushing yards at halftime, but one play in the fourth quarter left everyone impressed. Daniels broke out of two potential sacks, circled back and broke loose for a 13-yard gain.
"Was that unbelievable?" Bulls coach Jim Leavitt said. "I thought the guy was down; everybody thought he was down. I still don't know how he got out of that."
SPARSE SHOWING: The bowl announced a crowd of 22,185, the smallest in its four-year history and barely more than half of the announced attendance for last year's game between Connecticut and Buffalo.
USF and Northern Illinois each sold only about 1,000 tickets of their allotments of 10,000.
The announced attendance is the lowest of the first 28 bowl games played this season, just less than the 23,072 reported for the EagleBank Bowl in Washington, D.C., between UCLA and Temple.
THIS AND THAT: Senior LB Chris Robinson had a strong final game with two tackles for loss in the first half. … Walk-on K Eric Schwartz had USF's only points on its first seven drives, connecting on field goals of 39 and 19 yards. He finished the year 11-of-16 on field goals, tying USF's third-most accurate season.