TAMPA, Fla. -- Maybe B.J. Daniels needed a little time to warm up after being sidelined for a game and a half with a shoulder injury.
The South Florida quarterback, whose playing status was to be a game-time decision, started Thursday night's game against West Virginia but for the longest time everyone at Raymond James Stadium had to be wondering why.
In the first quarter and a half, here were Daniels' numbers: 13 attempts, three completions, 8 yards and an interception returned for a touchdown by WVU's Pat Miller.
Still, USF coach Skip Holtz stuck with the junior and eventually he began performing like himself. Although he steadfastly refused to run with the ball in the first half, Daniels got hot at the end of the half and completed eight of his last 10 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown.
"I felt all right. Not 100 percent,'' Daniels said. "I tried to do what I could.''
He tried valiantly in the second half, too. It was Daniels' 1-yard quarterback sneak that gave the Bulls a 20-20 tie with 10 minutes to play. When JaQuez Jenkins intercepted a Geno Smith screen pass on the next play from scrimmage and ran it back for a touchdown, USF led 27-20.
In the second half, Daniels took more chance running the ball and continued throwing much better, leading the Bulls back from every deficit they encountered right up until the end. But in the end, it was another mistake of his that was most costly. He was stripped of the ball with just over three minutes to play and the Bulls on the fringe of field goal range just inside the Mountaineer 30.
West Virginia eventually drove for Tyler Bitancurt's 28-yard field goal and a 30-27 win on the last play of the game.
"We were in position to win, potentially run the clock out and win on a field goal,'' Daniels said. "It's on my mind.''
Fate did West Virginia no favors in the first quarter when defensive lineman Julian Miller went down with a left ankle injury. It was the same ankle he injured on the last play of a 21-20 win over Pitt a week ago.
By that point, USF tailback Darrell Scott had run seven times for 51 yards already and was the Bulls' best offensive weapon. The last thing the Mountaineers needed was to lose one of their best defensive linemen. A week earlier, Miller had 12 tackles and four sacks in a 21-20 win over Pitt.
"I thought I was done,'' Miller said. "But Dave [Kerns] and the trainers worked their magic. I don't feel anything right now, but I'm sure I will tomorrow.''
But Bruce Irvin and Will Clarke filled the end spots around nose guard Jorge Wright and the Mountaineers didn't miss a beat, at least as far as defending the rush was concerned in the immediate aftermath of Miller's injury.
After Miller left the game, South Florida ran for just 32 yards the remainder of the half, all but 10 of those on an end-around by a wide receiver, Lindsey Lamar. Miller returned to the game later in the second half.
To virtually no one's surprise, it was Devon Brown back to receive punts for West Virginia instead of Tavon Austin Thursday night.