It was all there for USF, wrapped up in a neat package that said this would be the biggest Saturday in the history of its 14-year-old football program.
But it unraveled quicker than you can say turnover.
The Bulls learned firsthand you don’t feed the beast that resides in the Swamp. It turns the place into frenzy and gases up all those Corvettes that Urban Meyer has at his disposal.
It’s why Meyer is 34-2 at home and why the final 38-14 score will never tell the true story, but that often happens when a football team plays with the generosity of your local Red Cross.
It puts Bulls head coach Skip Holtz in the same predicament as his predecessor: How much rein to give quarterback B.J. Daniels?
The redshirt sophomore dazzled with his legs and fizzled with his arm. He had 107 yards net rushing and wore down the Florida defensive line. On the flip side, Daniels threw four interceptions that wore out his defense.
He made an impression on Meyer, who looked relieved instead of like someone who had just won by 24 points.
“(Daniels) is a stud,” Myer said. “He was scrambling and running the triple option and made some plays that only that kind of a quarterback can do. He is a superstar. He played fantastic.”
Holtz might disagree. He didn’t want Daniels running around like a sandlot quarterback while receivers tried to get open, which he often did under the Jim Leavitt regime.
His legs and a staunch defense had the Bulls holding onto a 7-0 lead with 1:14 left before halftime when Daniels allowed his daring nature to over-rule his common sense.
Instead of throwing the ball away on a third-down play, he threw into coverage and got picked off, giving Florida the ball at USF’s 29. The Gators scored three plays.
A fumble by running back Demetris Murray on a quarterback exchange at the Florida 12 took away a possible seven points in the third quarter of 7-7 game.
“Turnovers are the single biggest thing that determines wins and losses, and that was the difference in this game,” Holtz said. “We finished with a minus five, and you are not going to win many football games with that. B.J. is a tremendous athlete and a great competitor and more or less took us on his shoulders on the opening drive of the game.
Starting with Daniels’ pick, USF committed four turnovers on its next six possessions and in less than five minutes the Gators turned a 7-7 deadlock into a 28-7 lead.
“You have to be a man about this, learn from it and move on,” Daniels said. “... We were as good as them, but killed ourselves with turnovers.”