Bonani & Bulls Pull Out Another Thriller, 37-34
TAMPA (AP) -- South Florida coach Jim Leavitt had a hunch about Maikon Bonani that turned out to be right.
The freshman's third field goal, a 43-yarder as time expired Friday night, gave the 19th-ranked Bulls a 37-34 victory over No. 13 Kansas in a game both viewed as an opportunity to make a strong case for more national attention.
Bonani, making his college debut, also converted kicks of 34 and 23 yards after missing badly on a 41-yard attempt in the second quarter, justifying Leavitt's decision to use him instead of junior Delbert Alvarado.
Alvarado, USF's kicker the past two seasons, was 1-for-4 on field goal attempts in the team's first two games.
``I knew it was the right thing to do,'' Leavitt said. ``Maikon's a very good kicker. He certainly showed that tonight.''
Matt Grothe threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns for USF (3-0), which overcame a 17-point deficit to take a 34-20 lead before Kansas' Todd Reesing tied the game with two fourth-quarter TD passes.
Reesing had the Jayhawks (2-1) on the move again when safety Nate Allen intercepted a deep throw that would have moved Kansas into field goal range, then returned it 40 yards to the Kansas 27 with 30 seconds remaining.
Bonani kicked the game-winner two plays later.
``He's a great kicker. We saw it in practice,'' Allen said. ``We had confidence in him sitting over there. We didn't think it was going to overtime, and he nailed it.''
Grothe won the matchup of undersized quarterbacks who elevated their teams into the national spotlight with TD passes of 21 yards to Taurus Johnson and 37 yards to A.J. Love during an 18-minute stretch in which USF outgained the Jayhawks 346 yards to 15 to climb out of its big hole and take a 34-20 lead.
A week after throwing for a career-best 412 yards against Louisiana Tech, Reesing went 34-of-51 for 373 yards and three touchdowns.
Johnathan Wilson caught two TD passes and finished with nine receptions for 160 yards, while Kerry Meier had 11 catches for 120 yards for Kansas.
``I like the way the kids displayed character and fought back,'' Kansas coach Mark Mangino said. ``But we put ourselves in that position, so hopefully this is a learning experience.''
The Jayhawks and Bulls were two of college football's biggest surprises of 2007, with both climbing as high as No. 2 in the country before dropping out of contention for a spot in the BCS championship game.
This season is about establishing that they can be major players on the national stage for years to come.
Kansas lost for just the second time in 16 games with Reesing as its starting quarterback, the other a neutral-site loss to Missouri. The Jayhawks scored on their first two possessions, building a 10-0 lead, and Reesing's 4-yard TD run made it 20-3 late in the second quarter.
Grothe began USF's comeback with a 28-yard TD run.
Reesing, who looked unstoppable until USF limited Kansas to 9 yards in the third quarter, rallied his team with TD passes of 18 yards to Wilson and 14 yards to Angus Quigley with 5:32 remaining.
``It's a tough loss,'' Reesing said. ``We had all the confidence in the world that we were going to drive down and score (at the end). ... We had a chance for a big play, and the ball was a little underthrown. The safety made a heck of a play.''
Meanwhile, a relieved Leavitt played down the significance of winning the matchup of ranked teams.
``It's so early. I don't think one game makes a season,'' he said. ``Our players have to keep it in perspective.''