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Bulls top UTEP, improve to 4-0

Posted Sep 25, 2011 by Adam Adkins

Updated Sep 25, 2011 at 12:04 AM

USF’s offense continued to roll along Saturday night, and while the defense had some troubles against visiting UTEP, the unit came up with some crucial turnovers late to put things away.

The No. 18 Bulls improved to 4-0 with a 52-24 victory over the Miners in front of an announced crowd of 39,628 at Raymond James Stadium, giving USF some momentum entering the Big East Conference slate, which begins Thursday at Pittsburgh.

But USF coach Skip Holtz saw a lot of things that need to be corrected over the next few days before that nationally-televised meeting with the Panthers.

“I have a pit in my stomach after this game. We made so many mistakes,” Holtz said “We’ll get them corrected. I can’t wait to get ahold of that film.”

Junior quarterback B.J. Daniels led the way again for an offense that topped 500 total yards for a second consecutive game (the Bulls had 575), though this time he was just as dangerous with his legs as with his arm. Daniels threw for 202 yards and two scores, but he also rushed for a season-best 130 and another touchdown. And it was his legs that got things started early for the Bulls.

On USF’s second offensive play, Daniels burst through the middle of the UTEP defense and rumbled 71 yards for a score to give the Bulls a 7-0 lead three minutes into the game. The unit continued to click from there, scoring touchdowns on each of its first four possessions.

Running backs Darrell Scott (88 yards on 18 carries) and Demetris Murray (54 yards on eight carries) capped the next two scoring drives with short touchdown runs, and receiver Victor Marc followed with a highlight-reel 67-yard scamper that put the Bulls ahead 28-14 early in the second quarter. The Bulls amassed 263 rushing yards in the first half, nearly eclipsing their previous season high of 268 set last week in a rout of Florida A&M, and they ended up with 373 rushing yards in the game.

“We put the ball in the end zone. That’s the most important thing,” Daniels said. “We have a lot of guys who can do different things.”

But the Miners did their best to stay in the game. USF led 31-17 at the break, but UTEP stayed within striking distance entering the fourth quarter, thanks to quarterback Carson Meger (26-for-43, 240 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions) connecting with a wide-open Kevin Perry for a 25-yard scoring pass on a fourth-down play late in the third to make it a 38-24 game.

There was a scary moment early in the fourth quarter following UTEP’s successful conversion of a fake punt. Bulls punt returner Terrence Mitchell came up to deliver the blow to end the play, but he had to be taken off the field on a stretcher.

USF officials said later that Mitchell had feeling in all of his extremities, and Holtz said after the game that it wasn’t an injury to Mitchell’s neck and that it was a likely concussion.

After that point, the USF defense started providing big plays and helped put the game away.

The first was an interception by cornerback Ricardo Dixon, and the offense made sure to capitalize. Daniels engineered an eight-play, 60-yard drive and capped it with an 18-yard scoring pass to Lindsey Lamar (four receptions, 85 yards, two touchdowns) that put the Bulls ahead 45-24 with 6:46 remaining.

Lamar’s first touchdown came on a 54-yard catch and run in the third quarter that included three broken tackles and gave USF a 38-17 lead.

Fourteen seconds later, the defense came up big again. Linebacker Sam Barrington stepped in front of a Meger pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown to essentially seal the win and help atone for the unit allowing 339 total yards. The Bulls had allowed 406 yards total in the previous two wins.

“This was not our defense,” Barrington said. “We did not play to our standard.

“We have to get better and we will get better.”

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