Instant analysis of the Meineke Car Care Bowl, which South Florida won 31-26 over Clemson.
How the game was won: South Florida had to manufacture offense all season because it lacked a big-time passing game and got lackluster play from the quarterback position. The return of a healthy B.J. Daniels worked wonders. Daniels, who had to battle freshman Bobby Eveld just to earn the start, threw an interception on his second pass but was terrific after that. The USF offensive line controlled one of the ACC's best defenses, and Clemson was the team marred by erratic quarterback play in Charlotte. USF led 31-13 in the fourth quarter and held on after the Tigers tacked on two scores in the final two minutes.
Turning point: After a late first-half fumble by Demetris Murray helped Clemson cut the halftime lead to 17-13, the Bulls responded with an impressive 13-play, 83-yard drive on the first possession of the second half to regain command. And with Tigers quarterback Kyle Parker sidelined for the second half with a rib injury, the Bulls' defense nearly pitched the second-half shutout until Clemson scored in the final two minutes.
Player of the game: Daniels. The sophomore has had his ups and downs this season, but he looked like the confident, athletic leader who makes people excited about his potential. He made good decisions, crisp throws and moved away from trouble. He was 19-of-26 for 188 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a score. If the Bulls had this kind of performance from their quarterback all year, they might have won the Big East.
Stat of the game: South Florida was one of the worst teams in the country on third-down conversions this season, succeeding on less than 29 percent of those downs. In the bowl, the Bulls were 9-of-14 on third downs, while Clemson was 5-of-16.
What it means: South Florida finishes with eight wins in its first year under Skip Holtz, an excellent accomplishment considering how little he had to work with in the passing game, all the losses on defense from a year ago and the Jim Leavitt controversy that could have split the team apart. This is still a relatively young bunch at most positions, and the Bulls could make a run at the Big East title if they continue to make the kind of improvements they did in the second half of the year and during bowl season. Daniels may have established himself as the starter over Eveld now and appears to be grasping the Holtz system. The Big East improves to 3-1 in bowls and went 1-1 against the rival ACC this year in the postseason.