It was near the end of the third quarter on Sept. 2, 2006 in USF’s season opener against McNeese State, and then-freshman quarterback Matt Grothe stood under center at the 47-yard line.
Grothe, in place of injured starting quarterback Pat Julmiste, dropped back to pass and launched a towering throw downfield to wide receiver Marcus Edwards, who reeled it in for a 47-yard touchdown.
It was the first throwing score of Grothe’s career. There would be plenty more to come in the next three-and-a-half years.
One of the best players in program history, Grothe delivered many memorable moments from the starting position he held for 41 consecutive games. In that span, USF has ranked No. 2 nationally and played three consecutive bowl games.
On Saturday night, Grothe’s career abruptly ended after he suffered an ACL tear in his left knee late in the second quarter of USF’s 59-0 victory over Charleston Southern.
“Matt’s a franchise guy. We all know that,” Leavitt said after Saturday’s game. “What he’s done in college football is extraordinary. He’s one of the great names out there. I feel real bad for him. He’s a special guy.”
The Oracle takes a look at five of Grothe’s best football moments.
Nov. 4, 2006 – A great escape
Grothe and the emerging USF football program were still relatively unknown in early 2006. However, the Lakeland native gave fans a glimpse of his potential on a play in the second quarter against Pittsburgh.
Receiving a snap in the shotgun formation, Grothe was pressured and brought down by a Pitt defensive tackle – so it seemed.
The then–freshman managed
to maintain his balance, spin off the tackle, roll out to the right and connect with receiver S.J. Green for a 22-yard gain up the sidelines as the Raymond James Stadium crowd gave him a standing ovation.
Led by Grothe, USF eventually won 22-12.
Sept. 28, 2007 – No. 18 USF beats No. 5 West Virginia
USF’s impressive 21-13 victory over then-No. 5 West Virginia in 2007 can be classified as the marquee win in the Bulls’ 11-year program history.
It was Grothe who outmanned WVU quarterback Pat White on the ESPN national broadcast, gaining 191 total yards and throwing one touchdown – a 55-yarder to receiver Carlton Mitchell to give USF an early two-touchdown lead.
Sept. 8, 2007 – USF topples No. 17 Auburn
The 2007 West Virginia victory wouldn’t be significant if Grothe didn’t find wide receiver Jesse Hester in the end zone at Auburn for one of the program’s most recognizable plays.
Down 23-20 in overtime, the Bulls needed a touchdown to win, and Grothe delivered to Hester for a 14-yard game-winning score.
Most people will never forget Grothe’s reaction: ripping off his helmet, throwing it on the ground and sprinting to the end zone in celebration.
Sept. 12, 2008 – No. 18 USF upstages No. 11 Kansas
Down 17 points in the first half to Kansas, Grothe led the charge as the Bulls came back to win 37-34 in a thriller at Raymond James Stadium.
Most people will remember Maikon Bonani’s game-winning field goal as time expired, but it was Grothe who sparked the comeback with a 28-yard touchdown run before halftime.
The junior quarterback then connected with receivers Taurus Johnson and A.J. Love to give USF an advantage late in the game.
Sept. 12, 2009 – A well-deserved record
There Grothe stood at Western Kentucky in the second quarter less than two weeks ago and nearly four years since that first touchdown throw against McNeese State.
Grothe took the snap and ran a quarterback draw, the play he had run numerous times before, and bolted up the sideline for a 12-yard gain – making him the Big East’s all-time leader for total yards with 10,875.
All the touchdowns, yards and memorable moments behind him, Grothe reacted like any senior would: he handed the ball to the referee and jogged back to the huddle ready for the next big play.