In 2007, the University of South Florida was something of an upstart power in the nation, rolling through their first six games of the season undefeated, including victories over Auburn, North Carolina and West Virginia. They had just crushed Central Florida by a score of 64-12, and now set their sights on the Rutgers Football team, the Scarlet Knights, who had just been beaten by Maryland and Cincinnati in successive weeks.
On October 18, 2007, the South Florida Bulls charged into Rutgers Stadium in Piscataway, NJ, as the No. 2-ranked team in the nation. In quarterback Matt Grothe, the Bulls had a two-pronged threat who could beat an opponent with his arm or his legs, as not only did he throw for 14 touchdowns that season, but ran for 10 more.
After a Jeremy Ito field goal gave the Knights an early 3-0 lead, the Bulls scored twice, including a touchdown run of 18 yards by Grothe, and as the first quarter came to a close, the Bulls held a 10-3 advantage.
Rutgers tied the score 10-10 when quarterback Mike Teel found wide receiver Tiquan Underwood in the end zone, but they soon found themselves down again when Grothe (17-for-34, 247 yards passing) hit Jesse Hester with a 28-yard touchdown pass, giving the Bulls the lead, 17-10.
Rutgers subsequently put together a 10-play drive, and Jeremy Ito kicked a field goal with 0:05 left to cut the margin to 17-13 at the half.
The real story of the night then became Rutgers' ability to take over the game on the legs of running back Ray Rice. Rice pounded the ball 39 times in the game, amassing 181 yards on the ground. "When my number's called," Rice remarked after the game, "I'm going to do whatever it takes."
When it wasn't Rice, it was Teel hitting Underwood (five receptions for 114 yards and two touchdowns), who caught a TD early in the third quarter to put the Knights ahead, 20-17.
But a key play came in the third quarter that seemingly sealed the fate of the Bulls. When kicker Delbert Alvarado trotted out to attempt a game-tying field goal, cornerback Devin McCourty blocked the kick. From there, Rutgers then drove down the field and lined up to try a 32-yard field goal.
But, to the surprise of everyone in the stadium, holder Andrew DePaola took the snap from center and instead of placing it down, sprinted to his right and hit tight end Kevin Brock for a 15-yard touchdown pass that put Rutgers up by 10 points, 27-17.
But the crowd of 44,267 were still on the edge of their seats when South Florida kicked a field goal, and as the third quarter came to a close, Rutgers was nervously holding on to a 27-20 lead.
Early in the fourth, Jeremy Ito again came out onto the field to attempt a 51-yard field goal to put his team back up by 10 points. Despite the distance, he drilled the kick through the uprights, but with 11:59 remaining on the clock, it would be up to the Rutgers defense to preserve the game.
The Bulls came storming back, and when Mike Ford scored on a one-yard touchdown run with 9:16 to play, Rutgers was clinging to its lead, 30-27.
The Knights looked to control the clock by handing the ball to Ray Rice, but when the star running back fumbled with 4:07 left in the game, USF took over at the Rutgers 40-yard line. However, when quarterback Matt Grothe was sacked on first down, the Bulls were effectively taken out of field goal range, and they could not get close enough to try for the tying score.
The Rutgers defense would again be called upon for the biggest series of the game when USF took over the ball on the Scarlet Knights' 45-yard line with just 1:31 left in the game.
Again, it would be a key sack, this time by defensive back Joe Lefeged, that resulted in a 12-yard loss.
"When you play against an athlete like [Grothe], a team like South Florida, and you're able to make plays like that," said Lefeged after the game, "it makes it that much more fun."
The final USF drive—and ultimately, the game—ended with a fourth-down interception by Zaire Kitchen. From there, the clock ran out, and the fans stormed the field to celebrate the defeat of the No. 2 team in the nation.
"We had the ball at the 50, down by three and their defense came up to play," explained USF coach Jim Leavitt said afterwards. "Give them credit. Give them a lot of credit. They did it twice."
"It was a great win for our program," said defensive lineman Eric Foster after the landmark victory.
Ray Rice left Rutgers after his junior year for a productive NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens. In his four seasons as a pro, Rice has run for 4,377 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Joe Lefeged currently plays in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts and had 34 tackles and two interceptions in 2011.
Tiquan Underwood also went on to play in the NFL, catching on as an undrafted free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars. This season, he has been reunited with his old college coach Greg Schiano as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Rutgers holds an edge in the series all-time with a 5-2-0 record against the Bulls. But the biggest victory in this series occurred on a nationally broadcasted Thursday night game on October 18, 2007.
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