TAMPA, Fla. -- South Florida launched the Skip Holtz era with an unexpected star sharing the spotlight.
Joel Miller, the reserve who was involved in a locker room incident that led to the firing of former coach Jim Leavitt after last season, scored the first touchdown of his college career in Saturday night's 59-14 season-opening rout of Stony Brook.
"It's all in the past," Miller said, shrugging off a question about how it felt to contribute in the Bulls' first game since Leavitt's ouster. "I'm just glad to be with my team. They're great support, and we're just looking forward to the season."
B.J. Daniels threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He teamed with Dontavia Bogan on a 59-yard score on the Bulls' first offensive play and later threw a 19-yard TD pass to Miller, who recently shifted to receiver and was put on scholarship.
"I couldn't believe it. ... B.J. made a great throw," Miller said.
Holtz replaced Leavitt in January after five seasons at East Carolina. The son of former Notre Dame and South Carolina coach Lou Holtz is only the second coach to guide a program that Leavitt built from scratch over the past 13 years.
Michael Coulter threw a first-quarter touchdown pass that gave Stony Brook a brief 14-7 lead, but he also threw four interceptions and had one of them returned for a touchdown that put USF up 52-14 late in the third quarter.
"I think they were a little shocked early. The research I've done is most of these games are fairly close in the first quarter and a half," Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore said. "You put a little scare in them and you wake up the sleeping giant."
Daniels completed 15 of 22 passes before leaving the game after leading a five-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to start the second half.
Miller, a junior who played exclusively on special teams the past two seasons, was thrust into the spotlight late last year. School officials initiated an investigation after AOL FanHouse reported Leavitt struck Miller during halftime of a game because the former coach was upset about a mistake the player made on special teams.
Holtz, who led East Carolina to each of the past two Conference USA championships, replaced Leavitt in January after USF's probe concluded the former coach grabbed the player by the throat, slapped him in the face and then lied about it.
"Joel is doing a lot of solid things. ... I didn't give him that scholarship; he earned it," Holtz said. "He's on every special team. He made a couple of nice catches. ... If you go out and ask Joel, all he wants to do is contribute to this team, and he did."
The game was Stony Brook's first against a Football Subdivision opponent, and the Seawolves have already signed contracts to play three more FBS schools -- Buffalo, Army and Boston College -- in the next three years.
Miller did not have a career reception before Saturday night. Daniels found him slanting into the end zone with six seconds remaining in the opening half, finishing a nine-play, 61-yard drive that put USF up 31-14.
USF mistakes on special teams led to both of Stony Brook's touchdowns, with Faron Hornes fumbling on a punt return at his 35 and Bulls punter Justin Brockhaus-Kann being ruled down at the USF 27 for a 15-yard loss after going down on one knee to field a bad snap.
Coulter threw 31 yards to Jordan Gush to set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Edwin Gowins. The junior's 27-yard scoring pass to Brock Jackolski, a transfer from Hofstra, gave Stony Brook a 14-7 lead less than 10 minutes into the game.
Coulter completed 9 of 21 passes for 112 yards and one touchdown. Miguel Maysonet led Stony Brook in rushing with 72 yards on 11 carries.
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