Revengeance! Matt Grothe, South Florida Bulls Trounce N.C. State 41-10
In 2005, the South Florida Bulls earned their first bowl bid, traveling to Charlotte, N.C., to face Chuck Amato's N.C. State Wolfpack in the inaugural Meineke Car Care Bowl.
The Bulls' defense played well, limiting NCSU to 14 points, but USF's offense never got untracked and as a result, South Florida stumbled to the first shutout in program history, falling 14-0 on a cold Carolina day.
Fast forward a few years, and Coach Jim Leavitt brought his Bulls, now ranked 13th in the nation, to Raleigh, looking for a little payback from N.C. State, now led by former Boston College boss Tom O'Brien.
Longtime Bulls followers were not surprised by USF's fast start (scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions) as they controlled the game from start to finish en route to a 41-10 win.
The Bulls always seem to perform better under a certain set of circumstances, such as wanting to redeem their image after a lackluster game(s).
Also, the Bulls were fresh off a string of nationally televised squeakers: needing overtime to knock off pesky UCF in Orlando; getting a last-second field goal from true freshman Maikon Bonani to seal a home win vs. (then #11) Kansas; and holding on for a 17-9 win at FIU.
They also tend to fare well in games against opponents whom they have lost to in their previous meetings, and several players remain from the 14-0 loss in Charlotte.
Adding some drama to the game was a minor war of words between N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien and USF defensive coordinator Wally Burnham.
O'Brien referenced South Florida's 56-21 Holiday Bowl drubbing by Oregon, while Burnham reminded everyone that N.C. State didn't make the postseason last season, which considering the number of bowl games being played, is a pretty impressive achievement.
The blowout win was good for the appetites of fans and pollsters hungry for a clue as to the identity of this year's Bulls, but it certainly isn't one you can point to and put any questions to rest.
N.C. State looked formidable in upsetting in-state rival East Carolina, an early season media darling after upsetting Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
However, that win seems less impressive considering ECU's injuries, and their performance in barely winning vs. Tulane, and then being taken to the woodshed by Houston.
N.C. State has some crippling injuries of its own and came into the USF game missing some defensive playmakers and the freshman QB who led them to the OT win vs. ECU.
That left Harrison Beck, who started the season fourth on the depth chart, to face the nation's 12th-ranked defense.
On the offensive side of the ball, USF's strengths were evident. The offensive line did an excellent job in pass and run blocking, giving QB Matt Grothe ample time to find open receivers and for USF's stable of running backs plenty of holes, with the Bulls often finding themselves in second-and-short situations.
Defensively, the Bulls showed some vulnerabilities. They continued to be stout against the run, even with starting LB Brouce Mompremier out after a scary neck/spine injury at FIU (Mompremier said he expects to return for the Syracuse game).
Pass protection was a mix of good and bad for the Bulls. After giving up a deep pass late vs. FIU, the South Florida secondary continued to struggle against long passes. Beck only completed nine passes but tallied an impressive 239 yards.
USF intercepted three passes, benefited from two rain-aided safeties on wild snaps, and snuffed out three fourth-down conversion attempts, so the long passes only resulted in stat sheet padding.
South Florida shored up their special teams play, as Bonani went 3-for-4 on field goals, with his sole miss going off the right upright from 44 yards in the rain.
Punter Delbert Alvarado salvaged two bad snaps into good punts, most notably punting on the run near the sideline after recovering the ball and landing it in bounds.
The now-consensus No. 10 Bulls return home and face Pittsburgh, on a short week, for their Big East opener on Thursday night at 7:30 on ESPN.
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