- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Instant analysis of the International Bowl, which South Florida won 27-3 over Northern Illinois:
How the game was won: The Bulls couldn't get anything going offensively in the first half and went into intermission locked in a 3-3 tie. Northern Illinois kept breaking through the South Florida offensive line and sacked B.J. Daniels four times in the half. The second half was a different story completely, as coach Jim Leavitt went to his running game with Mike Ford and the line started holding its own. Given more time, Daniels threw two touchdown passes, and the South Florida defense was far too athletic for the Huskies to handle the entire day.
Player of the game: Mike Ford. The junior running back has been mostly missing in action since a promising freshman season, but he came up with a huge postseason. Ford used his size and speed to rumble for a Bulls bowl-record 207 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown, tilting the game in his team's favor.
Turning point: Daniels scrambled away from pressure and made a ridiculous 46-yard pass to A.J. Love for South Florida's first touchdown with a little more than five minutes left in the third quarter. That seemed to relax the Bulls, and they cruised home from there.
Stat of the game: Northern Illinois was just 3-of-16 on third- and fourth-down conversion attempts.
What it means: Not a whole lot. South Florida got its second straight bowl victory and ended the season on a positive note, but beating a MAC also-ran doesn't impress too many people. The attention now immediately turns to coach Jim Leavitt and the school's continuing investigation into his alleged mistreatment of a player. The outcome of that will determine where this team goes next year. The Bulls bring a whole bunch of talented young players back, especially on offense with the electric Daniels at the helm.
7hSam Khan and Greg Ostendorf