It started so brightly for the University of South Florida on Saturday night against No. 4 Florida State.
The Seminoles' defense is one of the toughest in the country and the Bulls were put to the test right away after receiving the opening kickoff in what became a 30-17 setback.
Not many expected what happened next. Demetris Murray runs for 8 yards, Lindsey Lamar for 5 on second down and then Murray again for 7 more. The Bulls were moving quickly and efficiently against a dominating defense.
After a couple B.J. Daniels runs, Evan Landi caught a 25-yard pass down the sideline. The drive eventually stalled, but Maikon Bonani's 32-yard field goal gave the Bulls a 3-0 lead and, more importantly, the confidence that the Seminoles' defense could be beaten.
The first quarter followed a similar storyline, with the Bulls outgaining Florida State 144-85. USF was the first team to do so against FSU this season.
"Early in the game we had some different little wrinkles and had some success in the early couple drives, but they tightened down as the game went on," offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said. "I thought it let us get off to a fluid start, moving the ball on the first drive and getting a field goal out of it."
But the middle half of the game was almost the complete opposite.
FSU's defense tightened and dominated the second and third quarters, limiting USF to 18 and 11 offensive yards, respectively.
USF recorded a first down on its first drive of the second quarter, courtesy of a 5-yard pass to Terrence Mitchell, but did not get another until the fourth quarter, more than 30 minutes later. The Bulls scored an offensive touchdown in the third quarter, but only needed to move the ball 7 yards after a blocked punt.
"The difference was in the second half, they went to outnumber us in the box by bringing an extra safety," USF coach Skip Holtz said. "We weren't able to convert. We weren't able to win the passing game in the second half. We had some opportunities (but) we just couldn't hit them."
The start of the fourth quarter breathed some life into the offense, with Daniels leading an impressive six-play, 73 yard scoring drive.
It was too little, too late, though, as the Bulls couldn't muster another scoring drive in the 13-point defeat.
"You've got to match their intensity for 60 minutes," Fitch said. "That's the challenge against a good defense like that."