USF freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels had a feeling of euphoria he had never experienced when the Bulls won at Florida State two months ago in Daniels' first career start.
Daniels grew up in Tallahassee and directed a storybook win against the Seminoles that day at Doak Campbell Stadium. Now, let's fast forward to Saturday against Miami.
Daniels and the Bulls envisioned another euphoric moment and another milestone victory against one of the state's premier programs. The Hurricanes swept away those visions by halftime in a dominating 31-10 victory.
Daniels and his teammates could only accept reality afterward.
"This was another step in solidifying ourselves in the state," Daniels said. "It is a reverse (feeling of beating FSU)."
The Bulls trudged off the field at Raymond James Stadium early Saturday evening as if awakened by a loud alarm clock. They appeared dazed and obviously disappointed. USF had few answers against Miami, prompting questions of where the program really is at this point.
Is USF a sleeping giant ready to join the elite, or is it still an infant who happens to be out of its league against the nation's best?
USF coach Jim Leavitt remains confident the program is close to joining the elite, but he acknowledged that the Bulls still have items on their to-do list.
"There is no question, we're not there," Leavitt said. "Is that the worst thing to say, that you're not at the same level as Miami right now? I'd like to say we are, but we're not."
The most glaring contrast to Miami and USF on Saturday existed along the offensive and defensive lines. Miami is bigger, more physical and deeper on both sides. The Hurricanes, who had been beating opponents through the air behind quarterback Jacory Harris, kept it on the ground against the undersized and overmatched Bulls.
The disparity proved to Leavitt what he and his staff must focus on this winter.
"We've got to keep recruiting," Leavitt said. "We've got to get better up front. One of our weaknesses is getting stout and physical people that play inside."
With Daniels only a freshman, the Bulls appear to have the most important piece of the puzzle to building a consistent winner. While the players were disappointed following Saturday's game, they remained convinced that more wins such as the one vs. FSU are in their future.
"Miami came ready to play. They outplayed us," junior receiver Carlton Mitchell said. "The sky is still the limit for this team."