No. 18 South Florida is not only basking in the national spotlight, the Bulls are thriving in it.
Matt Grothe upstaged
Grothe scrambled to avoid a sack before throwing a 55-yard touchdown pass to Carlton Mitchell, and Ben Moffitt returned one of his two interceptions 26 yards for a TD to lead a stellar defensive performance in the Big East opener.
"It's a huge statement win," Moffitt said. "It's something we've got to do to put this program where it's supposed to go."
The Mountaineers lost White late in the second quarter after the junior quarterback took a helmet to his right thigh on a running play. He limped off the field and remained on the sideline, but did not return.
"He couldn't get it loose,"
Slaton, the other half of
White's backup, Jarrett Brown, threw a 9-yard TD pass to Darius Reynaud to trim
"The guys seemed focused. For whatever reason we just did not move the ball well," Rodriguez said. "We're not going to point any fingers. We've got to start playing at a high level again."
The victory before a record crowd for a USF home game (67,018) figures to propel the Bulls to unprecedented heights for a program that has only been in existence for 11 seasons. They moved up to the Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-A, in 2001 and entered the Top 25 for the first time two weeks ago.
"It's a big win for everybody around here," USF coach Jim Leavitt said as he waved his left arm toward the on-field celebration. "Pretty neat stuff."
Although many will view the result as an upset, USF is not a stranger to taking down ranked opponents.
The Bulls upset
In the days leading up to the much-anticipated conference showdown, Rodriguez and his Mountaineers played down redemption as extra motivation, saying their focus was solely on playing better than a year ago.
It didn't happen.
In the first half alone, USF forced three fumbles -- two by Slaton -- and defensive end Jarriett Buie hit White as he released the pass that Moffitt intercepted with a clear path to the end zone.
The Mountaineers also hurt themselves with other costly mistakes, including a bad snap that contributed to Slaton's second fumble and another errant snap that sailed over Brown's head and forced
White limped off the field with 1:49 remaining in the second quarter after being tackled after an 18-yard run to the USF 17. He completed 12 of 18 passes for 100 yards and was intercepted once.
An even more dangerous threat to run, White gained 36 yards rushing on nine attempts.
Grothe was 9-of-17 for 120 yards and two interceptions. He and Jamar Taylor, who scored on a 19-yard run to make it 21-3 in the third quarter, led USF in rushing with 48 yards apiece.
"It's a good win for us but I don't want to get ahead of myself. I really don't," said Leavitt, who had already turned his focus to next week's opponent, Florida Atlantic. "We've got to improve in a lot of ways. I just want to focus in on trying to get ready for FAU."
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