Late Rally Falls Short in 22-20 Loss to No. 23 Rutgers

September 30, 2006
Trae Williams fifth interception set up a first-half touchdown.
Trae Williams fifth interception set up a first-half touchdown.
J. Meric

TAMPA, Fla. (Sept. 29, 2006) – A failed two-point conversion with 15 seconds left in the game proved to be the difference as the University of South Florida football team (3-2, 0-1 BIG EAST) fell to the 23rd-ranked Rutgers Scarlet Knights (5-0, 1-0 BIG EAST), 22-20, on Friday, Sept. 29 at Raymond James Stadium.

Freshman Matt Grothe, who accounted for 316 of USF’s 347 yards (throwing for 241 yards and a touchdown, rushing for 61 yards and two touchdowns and caught a 14-yard pass), came up a two-point conversion short of registering his fourth comeback of the season. The first-year quarterback completed a 16-yard touchdown pass to Ean Randolph with time winding down for the potential tying touchdown. To draw the game even at 22-all, Grothe attempted a pass to Amp Hill at the near pylon. Unfortunately, the pass was incomplete.

Gorthe’s 61 yards on the ground led all USF rushers. The 6-foot quarterback threw for 241 yards on 16-of-25 passing with one touchdown and two interceptions. Randolph registered a team-high six catches for 49 yards and a touchdown. Amarri Jackson tallied a team-high 83 yards on three receptions. 

Rutgers jumped out to a 7-0 lead with a 3-yard touchdown run by Ray Rice with 7:46 left in the first quarter. The 12-play, 79-yard drive, resulting in a touchdown for the Scarlet Knights, was the first allowed by the USF defense in the first quarter this season. Rice rushed for 52 yards on seven carries, capping off the drive with his 10th rushing touchdown of the season.

A 32-yard field goal by Jeremy Ito extended Rutgers’ lead to 10-0 with 6:45 left in the first half. The Bulls’ defense held the Scarlet Knights’ offense, which started with good field position (USF’s 26-yard line), to just 11 yards on seven plays, resulting in the Ito field goal. 

USF responded on the team’s ensuing possession with a 1-yard touchdown run by Grothe with 4:40 left in the second quarter. A pair of 30-plus-yard passes by the freshman quarterback, including a 32-yard completion to Taurus Johnson in which the receiver tipped the pass to himself, capped off a five-play, 80-yard drive for the Bulls. A 35-yard completion to Jackson kicked off the drive.

USF took its first lead of the contest when Grothe registered his second rushing touchdown of the game and fourth of the season. Following an interception by Trae Williams – his fifth of the season, tying the junior for third in school history for interceptions in a single season – the Bulls drove down the field, 70 yards to take a 14-10 lead. The five-play drive lasted 1:40 and was finished off with a 22-yard scamper by Grothe into the end zone – the longest rushing touchdown of his career.

Scoring 14 points in a span of 3:45 seconds, USF went into halftime with a 14-10 advantage, marking just the second time all-season that Rutgers had trailed.

Rutgers cut USF’s lead to 14-13 with 8:30 left in the third quarter. Ito’s second field goal of the night (40 yards) capped off an eight-play, 39-yard drive, which lasted 3:42 for the Scarlet Knights. The drive was the result of an interception by Courtney Greene of Grothe at the Rutgers’ 38-yard line.

Rice added his second touchdown of the night with a seven-yard run into the end zone as the Scarlet Knights regained the lead with 13:04 left in the contest. Rutgers went for the two-point conversion, however the Bulls stopped the attempt, making the score 19-14. The drive, which lasted 3:57, was 31 yards on seven plays. Rice rushed for 23 yards on five carries during the drive.

The Scarlet Knights extended their lead to eight points with a 53-yard field goal by Ito with 7:09 left in the game. The field goal was Ito’s career long and closed out an eight-yard drive which ate up 4:29 on the clock. 

USF drove 55 yard to the Rutgers’ 25-yard line before Brandon Renkart forced the fumble of Grothe, stopping the Bulls’ drive with 5:26 left in the game. 

After getting the ball to the USF 25-yard line, the Scarlet Knights attempted a 42-yard field goal by Ito. Stephen Nicholas broke through the Rutgers offensive line, blocking the attempt to give USF the ball at its own 34-yard line with 2:32 left in the game.

Sparked by the blocked field goal, USF drove 66 yards to score the team’s third touchdown of the night. A 16-yard completion to Randolph pulled the Bulls within two points of the Scarlet Knights with 15 seconds left in the game. USF attempted to tie the game with a two-point conversion, however a dropped pass gave Rutgers a 22-20 lead.

With one last chance, USF attempted an onside kick, but was unsuccessful, falling to the Scarlet Knights, 22-20.

The Bulls continue BIG EAST play, hosting the Connecticut Huskies on Sat., Oct. 7. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

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