Who in the world were those guys wearing South Florida uniforms this week? And who was playing quarterback for the Bulls?
They sure didn't look like the same team that managed just 15 total points, and no offensive touchdowns in its first two Big East games. South Florida broke out in a big way with a shocking 38-30 win at Cincinnati.
Skip Holtz promised a thorough re-evaluation of his offense after last week's sputtering effort at West Virginia, and whatever he and his staff came up with sure worked Friday.
B.J. Daniels, who has been criticized a lot and in this space for his disheartening play and 10 interceptions, finally looked like the guy with so much potential against the Bearcats. Daniels completed 13 of 16 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for two scores.
Daniels played with confidence and completed some long throws, including a 64-yarder to Dontavia Bogan and a 71-yard touchdown pass to Faron Hornes right after USF's defense stopped Cincinnati on a 4th-and-1 from the Bulls' 29. Hornes, who had three catches for 29 yards coming into the night, also had an 18-yard run.
The Bearcats, as they have done often this year, hurt themselves several times. Zach Collaros threw a costly interception in the red zone. Armon Binns dropped a sure touchdown pass, forcing the offense had to settle for a field goal.
They got the ball back with a little more than three minutes left but had to try and mount a game-tying drive without Collaros, who was taken out with an apparent left leg injury. Chazz Anderson came off the bench cold and led the team down to the USF 16. But his pass went through the hands of a streaking D.J. Woods on third down, and he was pressured into an incompletion on fourth down to seal it.
Credit the Bulls' defense, even with all the points they gave up. Cincinnati couldn't find much running room all night, and red-hot running back Isaiah Pead was held to just 48 yards on 15 carries.
The Bearcats saw their 13-game Big East winning streak and 14-game Nippert Stadium winning streak both come to an end. At 3-4 and 1-1 in the Big East, they now have less margin for error to reach bowl eligibility, and the home loss really hurts them in the league title chase. They were feeling good about their schedule with only two road games left, but now they will be in basically must-win mode to stay in the hunt.
Holtz got his first big victory at South Florida, leading the Bulls to a win in a place they had only known misery. This was, obviously, the best overall performance by the team all season and showed what USF is capable of if things are clicking, especially at quarterback. The Bulls (4-3, 1-2) still need a lot of things to go right to contend for the league title, but now this win gets them one needed step closer to bowl eligibility.
Just another night in what looks like a wild and unpredictable Big East season.