Daniels befuddled a Mountaineer defense that repeatedly failed to keep contain on him as he scrambled and was beaten downfield early and often for long pass plays in the first half.
The signal-caller had throws of 49, 69 and 45 yards in the opening half, helping put his team in control early.
"I handcuffed him in the Pittsburgh game," said USF head coach Jim Leavitt. "I didn't let him go out there and play. I told (offensive coordinator) Mike (Canales) in this game to let (Daniels) go and let him do what he does. I said we will just have to hope he grows and makes good decisions."
"He always wants to make plays. One time, I told B.J. to throw the ball out of bounds when he lost three yards. He was so mad. He feels like he can conquer the world -- and a lot of times he can."
The loss puts WVU (6-2, 2-1) in the position of having to play catch-up with Big East Conference leaders Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the final four games of the regular season. Still, if the Mountaineers win out, they would win the tiebreaker over both of those squads and advance to a BCS bowl game.
"I just talked to the football team, and there are some hurting guys in there both physically and mentally, as there should be," said Mountaineer head coach Bill Stewart. "That was a hard fought game."
"I cannot fault our effort. I can sometimes fault our intelligence, but I can surely not fault our effort."
After trailing 20-12 at the half, West Virginia appeared to gain momentum early in the third quarter. The team's defense seemed to have made adjustments in the locker room, earning a three-and-out to start things off.
The Mountaineer offense responded in kind, driving 63 yards in nine plays -- the last of which was an 11-yard touchdown rush by quarterback Jarrett Brown. The senior signal-caller had converted a critical third-and-7 by running for seven yards on the previous play.
Tyler Bitancurt's point after kick drew WVU within 20-19, but the team's defense continued to struggle to slow down a suddenly-potent USF attack that was powered by the arm and legs of Daniels.
The quarterback threw a scoring pass of six yards to Sterling Griffin on his team's ensuing possession. The toss, which came on a third-and-4 play, capped a drive that featured a 28-yard run by Moise Plancher, who plowed through WVU cornerback Brandon Hogan to break free.
With a 27-19 lead, the Bulls' defense took over the game. West Virginia would reach the USF 33-yard line on its ensuing possession, but Arnett bobbled a ball that would have converted a third-and-8 play from there.
Rather than going for it on fourth down, Stewart opted to send out the punt unit. Scott Kozlowski's kick sailed into the end zone for a touchback, a net shift of a mere 13 yards of field position.
USF drove one last time, converting on a pair of third down plays (one of which was a 23-yard Daniels rush on a third-and-6 play near midfield) to set up a 44-yard field goal by Eric Schwartz.
The kicker, who was 3-of-6 for the season (part of a placekicking unit that had made only four of 11 field goals) coming into Friday night's game, hit all three of his field goal attempts on the night.
Needing to make up ground quickly as it faced a two-possession deficit for the first time all night, the West Virginia offense instead went three-and-out.
Its next possession would be its last, as Brown and company drove to the USF 20-yard line before a holding call on Don Barclay and an illegal man downfield call on back-to-back plays backed the team up into a first-and-25 situation at the Bulls' 35-yard line.
A completion to Noel Devine that went for a loss of three yards and a trio of incomplete passes later (the last of which went through the hands of Wes Lyons on fourth-and-28 on a play that would have been a first down) and the game was essentially over, as the Bulls took over with 3:27 left and ran out the clock.
|This game recap presented by The Book Exchange|
The Mountaineer offense got off to a fast start, taking the ball to open the game and promptly driving 80 yards for a score.
Brown hit Alric Arnett for 32 yards on the first play of the game to put West Virginia into Bulls territory.
Momentum only continued to build from there, as Brown and company had to convert on only one third down, when the signal-caller hit Arnett for an eight-yard reception -- Arnett's third of the drive -- to convert a third-and-6 play.
Brown ran in from three yards out for a touchdown, taking advantage of a nice block by Ryan Clarke that took USF linebacker Chris Robinson out of the play, sealing the edge and allowing him to reach the pylon for the score.
The Bulls answered back quickly, taking advantage of good field position after Josh Lider's kickoff sailed out of bounds to start the home team's drive at its 40-yard line.
After Moise Plancher gained two yards on a fourth-and-1 play near midfield, Daniels found Carlton Mitchell for a 49-yard scoring strike. The receiver beat Keith Tandy, who was in man-to-man coverage coverage on the play.
Momentum remained on the USF side of things when the green-clad defense held WVU to a three-and-out.
Daniels then began to make things happen with his legs, running for gains of 27 and 13 yards on consecutive plays. The drive stalled, however, when tight end Ben Busbee dropped a Daniels pass on third down, and the Bulls were forced to settle for a 30-yard Eric Schwartz field goal and a 10-7 lead.
A quick drive of only four plays that ended in a Scott Kozlowski punt actually played into West Virginia's hands. The kick was downed at the USF 4-yard line and backed up two more yards on an illegal block penalty.
The foul occurred on the final play of the first quarter, and thus the period was extended for one untimed down. The WVU defense made the most of the extra play, tackling Jamar Taylor in the end zone for a safety, drawing the visitors within 10-9.
The Mountaineers appeared to be in good position to reclaim the lead after Jock Sanders returned the ensuing free kick all the way to the Bulls' 38-yard line.
Brown had Sanders wide open down the middle of the field on the third play of the drive, but failed to get the pass over the arms of linebacker Kion Wilson, who tipped the ball into the air and pulled it down for a critical interception.
Wilson fumbled on the return, but teammate Joseph Sabbath was there to pick it up and avoid giving the ball back to the Mountaineers.
USF failed to take advantage of the pick, however, and had to wait for an exchange of punts to occur before it could put more points on the scoreboard.
That happened after Daniels found Mitchell for another big pass play. The receiver beat Tandy again down the field, this time to the tune of 69 yards.
Three plays later, Daniels bought enough time to avoid pressure and presented enough of a scrambling threat to pull Boogie Allen into run support. The redshirt freshman quarterback hit A.J. Love (who Allen had previously been covering on the play) for a 12-yard touchdown on third-and-goal to give the Bulls a 17-9 lead.
West Virginia managed a critical answer, driving 44 yards after Mark Rodgers returned the ensuing kickoff to his team's 39-yard line.
The momentum stalled after Brown threw consecutive incomplete passes on second and third downs from the USF 18-yard line -- both of which were intended to go into the flat. Instead, each toss was broken up in turn by one of the Bulls' standout tandem of defensive ends, Jason Pierre-Paul and George Selvie.
The Mountaineers settled for a 33-yard field goal from the foot of Tyler Bitancurt and drew within 17-12 with 3:34 remaining in the half.
Bitancurt remained in the game after the field goal, kicking off for WVU and earning his team a rare touchback by booting the ball over 70 yards into the end zone.
It mattered little, as Daniels and company continued to systematically attack the West Virginia defense.
The signal-caller once again managed to extend a play long enough for one of his receivers to come open, as Love faked a comeback route before taking off down field when he saw Daniels scramble to his left. Tandy was again left in the lurch and the Bulls gained 45 more yards through the air on the second-and-11 play.
The defense stiffened inside its own 10-yard line, forcing Leavitt to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Schwartz that gave his team a 20-12 lead at the half.
The Bulls had 274 total yards of offense at the intermission, compared to 171 for West Virginia. USF built that edge despite running four fewer plays (32) than the visitors did (36) in the first two quarters, giving it a staggering 8.56 yards per play average over that span of time.
Brown finished 19-of-32 passing for 205 yards and one interception. Arnett had 84 receiving yards on six grabs. Devine gained only 42 yards rushing on 17 attempts -- 88 yards below his season average of 130.3.
"We didn't want to let him get outside," Leavitt said of Devine. "We wanted to keep him pinned up inside. He is such a great back and if he gets out, he is gone."
"We hadn't really played good defense in six quarters. We played poor in the second half of the Cincinnati game and we played horrible against Pittsburgh. We just didn't play smart against Pittsburgh, so for them to come back and play well will do a lot for them. It will give them their confidence back."
Daniels completed 13 of his 26 attempts for 232 yards and three touchdowns. He added another 104 yards on the ground on 14 carries -- a sterling 7.4 yards per carry average.
Mitchell was his favorite target, grabbing five balls for 132 yards and a touchdown. Love had 71 yards receiving on his three catches.
Stewart said his team would attempt to turn the loss into a positive by aiming for greater individual accountability for the team's success.
"Each and every man here, before they left that locker room, we grabbed hands and said, 'I will do more,'" Stewart said. "It starts with Bill Stewart. I will do more. Each and every staff member -- 'I will do more.' Each and every football player offensively and defensively -- I will do more.'"
"Guys, we are not finger pointing. We are thumb pointing. We are in a closed rank, and it's all about Mountaineer pride from here on out."