TORONTO – As B.J. Daniels escaped the pocket and rolled to his right during the third quarter of Saturday's International Bowl, there was an opening in Northern Illinois' secondary.
It was an opening South Florida had missed throughout the first half.
But this time, Daniels would make the play. He hit Bulls receiver A.J. Love for a 46-yard touchdown pass and from there the Bulls wore out NIU on the back of running back Mike Ford in a 27-3 win.
"That rollout, I really thought [Daniels] was going down but he gets out of there and goes down and makes a play," NIU defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said. "He made three or four plays on us in the second half that he didn't make in the first half."
Throughout the first half, the Huskies (7-6) kept Daniels in the pocket. And when he released, there was always someone there to tackle him.
When he attempted deep passes, he either missed by a few yards or threw into solid NIU coverage as he was pressured into mistakes time and again as NIU headed into halftime tied at 3.
"We were very happy and confident where we were," NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish said. "We didn't care if it was 0-0 or 3-3, we just wanted to be at least tied or ahead going into halftime."
The Huskies offense, however, never woke up. NIU reached fourth-and-1 on its first three drives of the game, coming up short on a fake punt once and punting away with Josh Wilber the other two times as they never found their flow on offense, converting just 3 of 13 third downs in the game.
The one time they did threaten to score, NIU was stopped at the 4-yard line and forced to kick a field goal for their lone points of the game.
"We just never got in a rhythm," senior left guard Jason Onyebuagu said. "We had a lot of three and outs that just killed us."
With the Huskies stalling on offense, South Florida was able to take control of the game.
They held the ball for 11:06 of the third quarter as Ford ran for 104 of his career-high 207 yards en route to the game's MVP award.
It was a power back beaten up on a tired defense, leaving the Huskies with little ammo left to fight back.
"I thought we played tremendous defense today, certainly in the first half," NIU coach Jerry Kill said. "But, offensively we sputtered in the second half and got worn down. A big back will do that to you."