Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- B.J. Daniels wore a headset for a national radio interview on the Doak Campbell Stadium field when South Florida offensive coordinator Mike Canales grabbed him.
"I told you you would come back and take it in this town!" Canales yelled. "This is your town!"
Daniels grinned for a second and then went back to answering questions. Clearly, nothing much rattles the kid.
Take, for instance, what he faced this week. The redshirt freshman inherited the quarterback job from the face of the Bulls' program, the injured Matt Grothe. His first career start came at No. 18 Florida State, the team he grew up rooting for as a Tallahassee native son. Dozens of friends and family members looked on from the stands.
Daniels, though, acted as though it were a weekday scrimmage.
"I'm not really a nervous person," he said. "I definitely felt comfortable, like I'd been here before."
Showing the moxie of Grothe, with a little more athleticism and a few predictable rookie mistakes, Daniels passed for 215 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 126 yards to help the Bulls beat Florida State 17-7.
"It's a great story," head coach Jim Leavitt said. "These kind of things don't happen all the time, right? But they did today."
Canales recruited Daniels hard when FSU wouldn't, and the coordinator's voice cracked as he talked about this homecoming performance. Despite the enormity of the assignment, Canales said Daniels stayed poised all week in practice except for one early-week drill. Canales got after him, telling him he couldn't afford any lapse in focus.
Daniels forced some throws in the second half -- he threw two interceptions and had another two that could have been picked off -- but for a freshman in this atmosphere, he was still pretty special. He made two huge throws in the first half -- one a 77-yard completion to Theo Wilson to set up South Florida's first touchdown and the other a 73-yard scoring bomb to Sterling Griffin. He set both up with play action, as Florida State had to respect his running ability, which included a 44-yard scramble through highway-style traffic.
"It was unbelievable," Canales said of Daniels' day. "I told him, 'That's why I recruited you.'"
Daniels maintained his focus during postgame interviews. He wouldn't bite on a question about Florida State's nonrecruitment of him, and he kept insisting that the win was far bigger than just him. Once, though, he allowed himself to reflect on what just happened.
"It's like Cinderella," he said, "or a fairy tale."