Key Moment: WVU - USF

TAMPA – Matt Grothe stumbled out of the pocket, threatening to fall. When he didn't, West Virginia's national title hopes and unbeaten season did.

The sophomore was hit in the backfield by WVU's pass rush, which had harassed the quarterback throughout the game's opening minutes. But his sixth sense and balance enabled another escape. With the open field in front of him, the Florida native had two choices: take the surefire gain or go for the jugular. He did the latter, finding a wide open Carlton Mitchell behind the Mountaineer defense, whose secondary had sucked up in run support when Grothe broke out of the collapsed pocket.

Mitchell caught the ball , then turned up field, tip-toeing the sideline to complete the 55-yard catch-and-run. What could have been a tight tussle with USF facing a long fourth down was instead a 14-3 Bulls lead. The momentum was built, and when No. 5 West Virginia (4-1, 0-1 Big East) kept adding to it with a mountain full of miscues and turnovers, it proved too much to overcome in the 21-13 loss.

With all the problems – the lack of running lanes, the Rodriguez-era high six turnovers and the complete lack of grit – the game-changer, besides when WVU's offense decided it would fail to focus for any of the 60 minutes, was the toss from Grothe to Mitchell. The defense played splendidly overall and limited No. 18 USF (4-0, 1-0) to just 14 points while forcing four turnovers and intercepting Grothe twice – the first time he was picked since last season's USF win at Mountaineer Field. But it was all for naught because of an offense that never found any of its trademark flow, leaving the defense to fend for itself the entire game.

Grothe completed11 of 20 passes for 135 yards and the single, backbreaking score. He was intercepted twice, but ran for 38 yards, often garnering opportunistic gains to bring up more makeable third downs, and thus keep the offense moving. Mitchell finished with just the lone catch.

"He was faster than I thought he was," West Virginia nose tackle Keilen Dykes said. "He made plays. He did what he had to do, and that's what got him the win. It's Matt Grothe. He is himself. He is a good player and got it down, got a big win for them."

The Bulls were the better team in nearly every facet and showed superior desire, execution and athleticism as an entire team. It was an on-field display of a team that thought merely being better on paper was good enough. All that did was turn West Virginia into a paper tiger.

"We made a lot of mistakes and missed a lot of tackles," safety Eric Wicks said. "A lot of guys were not getting there when they needed to. We took a loss. Now we have to try to get back and get ready."

For another road trip – and another opportunity for an upset over a team that controls its own destiny in the Big East.

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