TAMPA, Fla. -- Another South Florida rout, though hardly the crisp performance coach Skip Holtz was expecting from the 18th-ranked Bulls.
B.J. Daniels threw for 202 yards and ran for 130 more, helping USF (4-0) remain unbeaten with a 52-24 victory over UTEP on Saturday night.
The Bulls, however, weren't nearly as sharp as they were the past three weeks in beating Notre Dame, Ball State and Florida A&M.
A concerned Holtz said there's plenty to correct during a short week of preparation for Thursday night's Big East opener at Pittsburgh.
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"You never take one for granted. You're excited about the positive things that happened on the field. But you pinch yourself because you've got to do so many things better," Holtz said.
Daniels scored on a 71-yard run on the Bulls' second offensive play and threw touchdown passes of 54 and 18 yards to Lindsey Lamar in the second half. The junior's long TD burst was the fourth-longest in USF's relatively brief football history, and receiver Victor Marc's 67-yard scoring run later in the opening quarter was the fifth-longest.
"We put the ball in the end zone. That's the most important thing," Daniels said. "We have a lot of guys who can do different things."
Holtz had encouraging news on USF punt returner Terrence Mitchell, who was carted off the field in the fourth quarter after making a tackle on UTEP punter Ian Campbell at the end of a 19-yard run on a fake punt play.
The coach said Mitchell, who launched himself with head lowered and appeared to hit Campbell with his shoulder, did not have a neck injury.
"They told us in the locker room, he is communicating, he is moving everything, it's not his neck. They're worried about a concussion. The injury doesn't appear to be as severe as it appeared on the field," Holtz said. "He's responding really positively right now."
Mitchell, who's also a reserve receiver, knocked Campbell out of bounds. The punter quickly rose to his feet, but Mitchell remained on the ground in front of the USF bench for several minutes while receiving medical attention. He was strapped to a stetcher as a precaution, carted off and taken to a nearby hospital.
"I definitely hope he's fine. ... I saw him. I wasn't going to try to juke him. I was just going to try to run right through him," Campbell said. "Unfortunately, I think he lowered his head a little too much and he caught my shoulder pad."
UTEP (2-2) played without several key players sidelined with injuries, including starting quarterback Nick Lamaison, safety Travaun Nixon and defensive lineman Germard Reed.
Carson Meger, one of three quarterbacks who have started games for the Miners this season, completed 26 of 40 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore was intercepted three times, with the last returned 30 yards by linebacker Sam Barrington for the USF's final touchdown.
"Obviously, we came down here to play a game and win a game, and we didn't get that done. But they're a heck of a team," Meger said. "They're not ranked 18th in the nation for nothing. I thought we did some good things and some bad things. As a quarterback you always feel like you could do things a little bit better, but it just didn't happen for us."
Daniels, who completed 15 of 24 passes, led long TD drives on USF's first four possessions. Maikon Bonani kicked a 38-yard field goal the next time the Bulls (4-0) got the ball, building a 31-14 lead.
UTEP wasn't quite as successful offensively, but the Miners did move the ball effectively against a USF defense that had been barely tested since yielding 508 yards during a 23-20 season-opening win at Notre Dame.
Leilyon Myers scored on a 4-yard run, Meger threw a 24-yard TD pass to Anthony McGhee to finish a nine-play, 88-yard march and Dakota Warren capped a 15,play, six-minute drive with a 24-yard field goal for UTEP, which gained 234 yards in the opening half and finished with 339.
Meger threw a 25-yard TD pass to Kevin Perry late in the third quarter.
"We hustled. We played very hard. We don't give up on our team, obviously," UTEP coach Mike Price said. "I was very pleased with the job Carson Meger did for not having reps and being kind of our third-string guy going into the year. ... They kind of wore him out, and he made a couple of mistakes late that hurt us."
A week after rolling up a Big East-record 745 yards of total offense during a 70-17 rout of Florida A&M, USA gained 575 - 373 on the ground - against UTEP, which expects Nixon (knee) and Reed (concussion) to return on defense for next week's Conference USA matchup against Houston.
Daniels, meanwhile, is eager to get into USF's conference schedule.
"It's very important to start off well. We're 4-0, but we still have a lot of season left and a lot of work to do," the Bulls quarterback said. "(Saturday night) just shows we've got a ways to go. We put up numbers, but we can't be complacent."