TAMPA, Fla. — Chattanooga was beaten, but not overwhelmed.
That was the positive vibe coming out of the Mocs' locker room following Saturday night's 34-13 loss to South Florida in the season opener for both teams. USF is one of the preseason favorites to contend for the Big East championship.
Although coach Russ Huesman felt his team could have played better, he thought they did enough good things to be encouraged about how they'll stack up against the rest of Chattanooga's schedule.
"We won't face players like that the rest of the year," Huesman said. "We just won't."
B.J. Daniels threw for 265 yards and three touchdowns for South Florida.
The dual-threat senior tossed scoring passes of 19 yards to Derrick Hopkins, 38 yards to Terrence Mitchell and 39 yards to Sterling Griffin. He finished a solid performance with a 20-yard TD run in which he weaved through the Chattanooga defense before stretching the ball over the goal line.
"I was a little disappointed with our football team. South Florida had a lot to do with that, no question. They're good," Huesman said. "I told our team they're going to win a bunch of football games this year, but we can't be satisfied with how we played."
One area that Huesman felt the Mocs outplayed USF is on the defensive line.
"Our front seven — this is one matchup I think we won. Our defensive line versus their offensive line," Huesman said. "We were on B.J. Daniels all day, and it was our defensive line. They were phenomenal."
USF's defense was effective, too, limiting Chattanooga to 151 yards and sacking quarterbacks Terrell Robinson and Jacob Huesman six times.
Robinson, last season's Southern Conference freshman of the year, started and alternated possessions for much of the night with Huesman, a redshirt freshman who's the son of the Mocs' coach. USF sacked Robinson on two of the sophomore's first three plays, setting the tone for a long night for the entire Chattanooga offense.
A holding penalty and sack of Huesman kept the Mocs from getting into the end zone after driving to the USF 3 late in the second quarter. Nick Pollard wound up missing a 40-yard field goal but D.J. Key's interception and 43-yard return put the Mocs back in business less than a minute later.
Williams trimmed USF's lead to 21-10 at the half with his touchdown run. Henrique Ribeiro's 46-yard field goal that hit the crossbar and bounced through pulled the Mocs within 27-13 in the final minute of the third quarter.
Huesman, who wound up taking the majority of the snaps, completed 9 of 13 passes for 82 yards and no interceptions in his college debut. Robinson was 4 of 5 for 20 yards and no interceptions.
"Great learning experience, especially for being that first game. I felt pretty comfortable out there," Huesman said.
"I always want to see Jacob succeed," Robinson said of the competition for the No. 1 job. "If he's doing good, that's going to make me want to do better, and it's just going to make a great team."