South Florida coach Skip Holtz is pleased with how B.J. Daniels has started to see the field and develop as a quarterback. Holtz might not need much production from the third-year starter with FCS foe Florida A&M in town.
The 20th-ranked Bulls look to move to 3-0 on Saturday night when they face the Rattlers, whose lone victory this season came against a Division II team.
Daniels had a down 2010 season despite winning MVP honors in a Meineke Bowl victory over Clemson that helped South Florida finish 8-5 in Holtz's first year at the helm. He threw for 1,685 yards with 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions after passing for 1,983 yards with 14 TDs and nine INTs the previous year.
The junior opened this season with an efficient, no-turnover performance in a 23-20 victory at then-No. 16 Notre Dame on Sept. 3 that lifted the Bulls into the Top 25 for the first time in two seasons. Daniels was at his best in last Saturday's 37-7 home-opening win over Ball State, setting career highs in completions (28), attempts (39) and passing yards (359).
"It's far and away the best game B.J. Daniels has had since I've been here," Holtz said of the Big East offensive player of the week. "... It was one of his best games because of the way he managed the offense. Just the poise he shows in the pocket now, the confidence he has displayed, the leadership role he's given forth -- he is truly playing quarterback. He's not just an athlete running around making plays."
Daniels, 16 rushing yards shy of moving past Vince Brewer for 10th all-time at South Florida, could give way to backup quarterback Bobby Eveld early in this matchup if he can get the Bulls off to another quick start.
South Florida has outscored opponents 46-0 in the first half after taking a 30-0 lead into halftime last Saturday, having outgained the Cardinals 386-76.
"I think it started in the summer with the commitment these guys made," Holtz said. "I think they are very focused. They're very dialed in."
The Bulls could put up plenty of points on the Raymond James Stadium scoreboard in this matchup the way Florida A&M (1-1) has struggled defensively. The Rattlers are 81st in the FCS in total defense after giving up 427 total yards in a 23-17 loss at Hampton last Thursday.
Florida A&M yielded 401 in a 28-22 victory over Division II Fort Valley State on Sept. 3.
"We were lucky to get out of that ball game (with a win)," coach Joe Taylor said.
Austin Trainor has had a shaky start, completing 53.6 percent of his passes with two TDs and three INTs, and the Rattlers have struggled to run the ball at 1.6 yards per carry.
Facing South Florida is unlikely to help them improve that average. The Bulls defense has held opponents to 3.1 yards per carry and has forced eight turnovers.
"Really a good nucleus of guys on the defensive side of the ball that are really starting to play well," said Holtz, whose Connecticut team defeated Taylor's Hampton squad 42-34 in the 1998 FCS playoffs.
South Florida defeated visiting Florida A&M 37-3 on Sept. 10, 2005, in the teams' only meeting.
Top 25 Overview
The Bulls keep climbing up the rankings and should have no problem against Florida A&M, an in-state FCS program. What coach Skip Holtz will be looking for is continued improvement out of quarterback B.J. Daniels, who is coming off a Ball State game in which he set career highs in completions, attempts and yards. USF also has improved in turnover margin, ranking in the top 3 in the nation.