On a very steamy afternoon the South Florida Bulls squared off for the first time ever against the Florida Gators in front of a crowd of 90,612 fans in the Swamp, starting strong, but eventually falling 14-38.
Many believed that the Bulls would be no match for the 8th ranked Gators, but from the get-go, USF set the tone early. They forced the Gators three and out on their first series from scrimmage, and the Bulls took over on their 4 yard line after a deep punt by Florida. The offensive staff did an excellent job of mixing up the play calls early on as USF marched down 96 yards on 16 plays for the score. BJ Daniels completed a 2 yard pass to the back of the end zone to senior TE Andrew Ketchel for the touchdown. The touchdown reception marks the first of Ketchel's career.
The first half was mostly dominated by the Bulls. Although they only scored 7 points, they controlled the clock and were able to get some decent push in the run game. However, towards the end second quarter and the entire second half for that matter was a totally different story. While the Gators looked out of rhythm early in the game, they did a complete 180 in the second half. The offense started gaining some momentum with Brantley finding several different targets for decent gains. The Gators offense was also aided by some careless Bulls penalties. The Bulls committed five false starts in the first half alone as the crowd noise proved to be a major factor.
BJ Daniels threw 2 interceptions in the second quarter with the first one setting up the Gators' first and only score in the first half.
The second half started with both teams exchanging punts. On USF's second possession, the running game was humming, driving down to the Florida 13 yard line before Demetrius Murray fumbled the ball away. After that, it was all Florida as the Gators racked up 143 yards of offense in the third quarter , scored another rushing touchdown, and a pick six essentially sealed the Bulls fate with the Gators scoring 21 points extending the lead to 28-7.
The lone bright spot for the Bulls was a 51-yard hook up between BJ Daniels and Evan Landi that lead to a touchdown for the Bulls, and 28-14 score.
In the fourth quarter, the Gators were able to force one more interception , and padded the score with a field goal and a TD for a final score of 38-14.
Aside from that, the Gators defense stymied the Bulls passing attack as BJ Daniels finished his day going 6-23 passing for 84 yards with a touchdown and four interceptions.
While the scoreboard may reflect a blowout loss for the Bulls, there are some positives to be taken for this matchup. With a brand new staff and very young and inexperienced wide receiver corps, the Bulls were able to establish a strong running attack against one of the best defenses in the nation. This is something the Bulls have not been able to do with any consistency the last few years. Demetrius Murray was the Bulls rushing leader from the running back position finishing with 62 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown. One of the few bright spots was BJ Daniels becoming the second quarterback since 1996 to rush for more than 100 yards against the Gators as the Bulls as a team gained 244 yards on the ground for 6.3 yards per carry. The offensive line performed admirably considering they were facing one of the most talented defensive line units in the country. They paved the way for the strong running attack and despite the less than mediocre passing effort from BJ, they only allowed one sack.
Head Coach Skip Holtz suffered his first loss in his early Bulls career but he was able to draw some positives from today's performance.
"Let me start by saying how proud I am of the football team, the way they came in here and the way they competed here at Florida Field. I thought this team was not intimidated. I thought the team played extremely hard. They showed that they deserve to be on this field. I was really proud of this football team."
Aside from the running game showing up, there were some solid individual performances on the defensive side of the ball for the Bulls. David Bedford had a great game, providing pressure on Brantley for most of the day and playing well in the run game. Sam Barrington making his first start of the season, made a few nice stops.
While no loss is a good loss, this is about as close to good as the Bulls could have expected given the circumstances and should give the Bulls a solid base to build upon as the season progresses.