After watching B.J. Daniels carve up the Ball State defense en route to a career performance in Saturday night's 37-7 victory at Raymond James Stadium, USF coaches thought it was just another indication of how far the junior quarterback has come from a year ago.
Daniels avoided making any costly mistakes for a second consecutive game, completing 28 of 39 passes for 359 yards, all career highs, in a little less than three quarters of action.
"He is seeing the field, and he is doing some great things," USF coach Skip Holtz said. "Everyone kept asking me, 'What's the difference with B.J. from Year One to Year Two?' Just looking at his leadership skills coming out, he's more comfortable in the offense and it's really showing with what he's doing, the way he's protecting the ball right now.
"It's a far cry, in these first two games, from where we were at Florida a year ago. He's having fun out there."
USF moved up two spots to No. 20 in The Associated Press Top 25 poll and debuted in the coaches' poll at No. 22 Sunday.
Daniels continues to point to his offseason work, combined with the fact he and the rest of the working parts around him are in the second year of the same offensive system, a benefit that wasn't afforded to him at any point in his career before this season. Through two games, Daniels has completed 66 percent of his passes (46-for-69), has thrown a touchdown pass in each game and has just one interception, against Ball State after some miscommunication with sophomore receiver Sterling Griffin.
"He's progressing, like we talked about during the bowl practice and through spring ball," offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said. "We've just got to keep him on that curve, the uphill swing."
Though Daniels' play through two weeks has been something for the Bulls to savor, not everything with the offense is where it needs to be. One problem area that carried over from the win against Notre Dame to the victory against Ball State was finishing off drives inside the red zone.
USF scored on six of seven trips into the red zone Saturday, but settled for field goal attempts on four of those, missing one. Against Notre Dame, the Bulls were three 3-for-3 in red zone opportunities, but just one possession ended in a touchdown.
That surely will be a point of emphasis this week while preparing for Saturday's home game against Florida A&M.
"We were moving the ball real well, but when we got to the red zone, for whatever reason, we weren't finishing every drive like we needed to," center Chaz Hine said. "You want to get seven points. We got points, but we need more. We need to finish."
The last time a Holtz-led team started a season 2-0 was East Carolina in 2008. It started with a victory over a nationally ranked opponent (Virginia Tech) and ended with a conference championship (C-USA). … Freshmen WRs Andre Davis and Ruben Gonzalez and FB Tye Turner made their debuts Saturday. … Freshman OL Thor Jozwiak had surgery on his left shoulder Friday and will redshirt this season.
FLORIDA A&M AT NO. 20 SOUTH FLORIDA
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
TV: BHSN, Ch. 47