Grothe Leads Bulls Past Wolfpack, 41-10

September 27, 2008

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Carlton Mitchell













NC State





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South Florida certainly didn't need All-American George Selvie against outmanned North Carolina State. Matt Grothe gave the Bulls' defense plenty of cushion.

The 13th-ranked Bulls had an easy time of it for once, routing N.C. State 41-10 on Saturday night behind 259 yards passing, a touchdown and a perfect start from their junior quarterback.

``That's the first time we've had a complete game,'' USF defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said. ``It's about time.''

Grothe completed his first 11 passes, Jamar Taylor and Mike Ford added 1-yard touchdown runs and the Big East's only nationally ranked team had the look of a legitimate contender even without Selvie. The star defensive lineman was in uniform but sat out with an ankle injury, one of three members of the Bulls' starting front seven who didn't play.

``Our guys really wanted to step up and play because we had so many guys who were down,'' coach Jim Leavitt said.

The Bulls (5-0) scored touchdowns on their first three possessions, recorded two safeties, built a 31-10 halftime lead and had 354 of their 514 total yards in the first half against a Wolfpack team seeking its second straight upset of a top-15 team.

Grothe wasn't about to let that happen. Standing tall behind an offensive line that kept him well-protected, he completed passes to six different receivers - most of whom were wide open - during his perfect start against a defense that was missing its top playmaker, injured linebacker Nate Irving.

``We knew we could do some things, watching them all week on film,'' Grothe said. ``It was just a matter of doing it. Today was one of those days. ... Whenever we put some points on the board early, we normally play well.''

His first incompletion came with 33 seconds left in the first quarter when he overthrew A.J. Love down the left sideline, but by then, it didn't matter - the Bulls led 14-3 and were well on their way to a blowout. Each of their previous three wins were decided by eight or fewer points.

Grothe completed 20 of 29 passes, threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Carlton Mitchell and rushed nine times for 68 yards. He exited after Moise Plancher's 10-yard touchdown run with 9:49 left stretched the lead to 31.

``They have a great offense for (Grothe), and he fits their scheme,'' N.C. State defensive end Willie Young said. ``There are lots of times I thought we had him trapped and sacked, and he got away out of the pocket and made the plays. ... They send five wide and run the linebackers off, and he makes a 15-yard scramble. He found the seams and makes that offense go.''

Andre Brown had a 1-yard scoring run and Harrison Beck, replacing the injured Russell Wilson, was 9-of-32 for 239 yards with three interceptions in his first start this season for N.C. State (2-3), which was coming off an overtime upset of then-No. 15 East Carolina.

A downpour that began midway through the first half led to some ugly halftime stats for the Wolfpack.

South Florida outgained N.C. State 307-22 at one point midway through the second and by halftime had surpassed the 320 total yards they gained last week at Florida International. Had Beck not connected on passes covering 48 and 41 yards, the Wolfpack would have had negative total yards through 30 minutes.

Coach Tom O'Brien's team at halftime had minus-33 yards rushing and 63 total yards - numbers deflated by a pair of fouled-up long snaps that led to USF safeties on consecutive series.

A fourth-down snap sailed over punter Bradley Pierson's head and into the end zone for two points and a loss of 27 yards, and the Wolfpack's next possession ended similarly when a snap from the 17 got past Beck and he kicked it through the back of the end zone for another safety.

``I was looking at the defense ... I looked down to snap it and it came up and caught me off guard,'' Beck said. ``I didn't want them to score a cheap touchdown off a fumble recovery. ... If I fall on it, it might come out and they fall on it and turn into a touchdown. So I just kicked the dang thing out of bounds.''

Maikon Bonani kicked field goals covering 20, 32 and 44 yards for South Florida. Josh Czajkowski had a 32-yarder for N.C. State.

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