TAMPA — B.J. Daniels finally played like a freshman quarterback in South Florida's 34-17 loss to No. 8 Cincinnati on Thursday night. But he had some help.
"It wasn't as if he wasn't trying," USF coach Jim Leavitt said.
USF receivers dropped plenty of passes that lead to Daniels completing only 15 of 32 attempts for 208 yards and was intercepted twice, and his offensive line didn't fare well against the Bearcats defense.
Carlton Mitchell and Pat Richardson had their share of drops.
Mitchell couldn't hold on to a deep pass that would have given the Bulls a fourth-quarter touchdown.
"Carlton missed some catches he should have had," Leavitt said. "He's got to use his hands; look the ball into his hands."
Still, Daniels played beyond his years on a number of plays, using his speed to roll left or right to avoid the pass rush as he bought time to find an open receiver.
Daniels connected on a 28-yard touchdown pass to Jesse Hester in the first quarter that gave the Bulls a 7-3 lead - their only lead of the night.
Daniels has thrown seven touchdown passes this season. His 1-yard touchdown plunge in the third quarter was his fourth rushing touchdown of the year. Hester returns
USF receiver Jesse Hester, slowed by ankle and hamstring injuries this season, caught his first pass of the year when he pulled in the 28-yard scoring pass in the first quarter. Hester caught two more passes and finished the night with 41 receiving yards. Tough running
After Daniels, who rushed for 74 yards on 16 attempts, the next leading rusher was Moise Plancher, who gained 37 yards and seven carries.
Leavitt used Lindsey Lamar, hoping he could get outside on the Bearcat defense, but that didn't work. Lamar finished with 29 yards. Big crowd
The game drew 63,976, which was the third-largest crowd to see the Bulls play at Raymond James and the fourth largest for a mid-week Big East game in conference history.
The record is the 67,012 that saw the Bulls beat West Virginia on Friday, Sept. 28, 2007. NOTEWORTHY
DE George Selvie had one sack to raise his season total to three and his career total to 28.5. He also forced his first fumble of the season. ... Eric Schwartz kicked a career-long 50-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. His previous best was a 37-yarder against Charleston Southern. ... Cincinnati's Aaron Webster returned an interception 83 yards. It was the longest play against the Bulls this season ... The 75-yard touchdown run by Cincinnati's backup quarterback Zach Collaros was the longest offensive play of the season for the Bearcats. Collaros, who replaced the injured Tony Pike (sprained wrist) early in the third quarter, led all rushers with 132 yards on two carries and a pair of touchdowns. He also completed four passes for 72 yards. ... USF has lost four straight to Cincinnati and are 2-4 all-time against the Bearcats, including 2-2 in Tampa. ... The Bulls are 5-1 for the third time in their 13-year history. They began 5-1 in both 1998 and 2008.