QB Daniels, Strong Defense Lead USF past FSU

South Florida head coach Jim Leavitt, right, and Sam Barrington celebrate following their 17-7 win over Florida State in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009, in Tallahassee, Fla.(AP Photo/Phil Coale)
Published: Saturday, September 26, 2009 at 8:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 26, 2009 at 11:50 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE | Perhaps no win put South Florida on the college football map like the 2007 victory at No. 2 Auburn.

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South Florida's Quenton Washington, left, and Sam Barrington wrap up Florida State receiver Taiwan Easterling during an NCAA college football game at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Jacob Langston) ** LEESBURG OUT, LADY LAKE OUT, TV OUT, MAGS OUT, NO SALES **

But on Saturday, the Bulls officially arrived.

Put a stake in the "Big Three" moniker that for decades declared that Miami, Florida and Florida State were leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else in the state.

USF can say it has a seat at the table as a member of the Big Four.

And the Bulls can thank a Tallahassee-born redshirt freshman quarterback who was making his first collegiate start.

B.J. Daniels threw two touchdown passes - including a 73-yard toss to Sterling Griffin - as the Bulls upset No. 18 FSU, 17-7, on Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium before 83,524 fans.

"I don't think there's any question this is the biggest (win)," USF coach Jim Leavitt said. "You go into their stadium and you beat them and it isn't a fluke. This is the biggest win for South Florida . To me, I don't think there is any question."

USF (4-0) held FSU (2-2) scoreless for more than 45 minutes, recovered four fumbles and stopped the Seminoles three times in the red zone.

Daniels ran for 126 yards and completed 8 of 21 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns in his first game replacing USF star quarterback Matt Grothe, a former Lake Gibson High standout who is the Big East's career offensive yards leader.

"It's big," Daniels said of the win. "Everybody talks about the Big Three. We're trying to make a name for ourselves, and I feel like this is the first step."

The first matchup between FSU and USF lost some of its luster with Grothe's season-ending knee injury a week ago. However, Daniels, who is just 19, didn't seem frazzled in the first half although he did force throws in the second half. While he wasn't consistently accurate, he did deliver USF's first touchdown drive.

Backed up at the USF 1, Daniels ran twice then rolled right and found a wide open Theo Wilson, who raced 77 yards down to FSU's 8.

Daniels then rolled right again, drawing FSU's defense with him, before lofting an 8-yard touchdown pass to Ben Busbee. Nine minutes later, he connected with Griffin on a 73-yard touchdown to give USF a 14-0 lead.

Daniels did throw a pair of second-half interceptions, both of which found FSU's Ochuko Jenije. In the end, both stung but didn't hurt the Bulls.

On a day when the Seminoles honored the 1999 undefeated national championship team and wore their "white out uniforms," USF in turn took Wite-Out to FSU's stature as an elite, top 25 team - just one week after the Seminoles stunned No. 7 BYU.

When the polls come out on Sunday, USF could instead be in the top 25.

"They are a whole lot better than I thought," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "They whooped us. How do we feel? Opposite of the way we felt last week. How do they feel? Like we felt last week."

FSU quarterback Christian Ponder completed 25 of 37 passes for 269 yards. But he was sacked five times, and the Seminoles were held to 19 yards rushing.

Ty Jones scored on a 3-yard TD run less than 2 minutes into the fourth quarter.

But in the closing minutes of the game, it was the more than 10,000 Bulls fans who celebrated, chanting, "USF, USF, USF," at the top of their lungs.

"Unbelievable," Leavitt said. "I was in tears at the end of the game. When I looked up in the crowd and saw how many people from South Florida were there, I about broke (down). … I just wanted to jump up in the middle of them."

This story appeared in print on page C1

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