One of the more impressive plays for the University of South Florida during Saturday night's 70-17 rout of Florida A&M wasn't even a score.
Midway through the second quarter, B.J. Daniels stared into the eyes of a blitzing Rattlers defender. The Bulls junior quarterback escaped danger, however, by slinging to the ground the opponent who was draped over him. He scrambled out of the pocket and found sophomore receiver Sterling Griffin for an 18-yard completion.
After the game, Daniels couldn't help but smile and laugh off what happened. In the heat of the moment, though, it was quite a different feeling, especially since Daniels noticed how close he was to USF's goal line on the play.
"I was scared, actually," Daniels said.
What has been downright scary is Daniels' production during the past two weeks. Though it's come against two overmatched opponents in Ball State and Florida A&M, his numbers are staggering.
Daniels has completed 49 of 70 passes for 741 yards and five touchdowns playing a little more than four quarters combined in the two wins. Against the Rattlers, he tied the program's single-game record with 382 passing yards, 355 coming in the first half, while throwing a career-best four scores. His two-game yardage total also is a program record.
But the best stat Saturday for Daniels was the zero in the turnover column. Through three games, he has taken care of the football, an issue for him a year ago. Daniels has one interception this season, when there was miscommunication with a receiver who broke off a route on a deep ball.
"(Not making mistakes is) the most important thing," said Daniels, who ranks 25th nationally in passing efficiency with a 157.80 rating through the season's first three weeks. "Getting the W, trying to prevent the bad play and definitely being consistent — those are the top three things on my list right now, just trying to make sure I can help the team get into a position where we can win."
In racking up a Big East-record 745 yards of offense against the Rattlers, the Bulls strung together big plays, a deficiency through the first two games. Before Saturday, USF's longest play from scrimmage was 31-yard gain. The Bulls had four plays of 31 yards or longer and eight of 24 yards or more against Florida A&M, including five for touchdowns.
"We talked about that being an emphasis for all of our skill players," USF coach Skip Holtz said. "We had not, up until this point, done a very good job of making somebody miss in the open field and turning that 15-, 18-, 20-yard play into that home run ball."
Junior running back Darrell Scott had a hand in on three of those big plays, rushing for touchdowns of 56 and 30 yards while also taking a screen pass from Daniels 84 yards for a score. It helped Scott, who tied a program single-game record with four total rushing/receiving scores, account for a combined 230 yards (146 rushing, 84 receiving), which tied for the third-best single game rushing/receiving total in program history.
Two other Daniels scoring passes covered at least 27 yards. He hit Love on a 43-yard score on his first pass attempt, and then late in the first half recognized a busted coverage and found freshman receiver Andre Davis wide open for a 27-yard score.
But with all the big plays and yards gained, the most impressive thing for USF offensive coordinator Todd Fitch was the work of the offensive line. The unit, which features three new starters this season, handled Florida A&M's pressure defense and paved the way for a ground attack that averaged 5.7 yards per rush and a season-high 268 yards.
"I thought the first two games we played well, but between them and the running backs I don't think we physically imposed our will on anybody, and we thought this was a great opportunity to do so," Fitch said. "What gets lost when you have all those yards and big plays is I thought they blitzed us about every down, and I thought (the line) did a great job of picking up the blitzes in the run game and then obviously I thought the backs ran really hard with the line.
"I'm really proud of those two groups because we kind of laid down the gauntlet to them in a Friday afternoon meeting and they did a great job responding."