The Bulls’ run defense is ranked first in the Big East Conference. USF allowed North Carolina to gain only 164 yards of total offense on Saturday. ORACLE PHOTO/SEAN REED
Going into Saturday, a lot of people might have looked past the North Carolina game – but none of them were on the USF football team.
From the first drive of the Bulls’ 37-10 win, No. 23 USF made it clear it was not looking ahead toward Friday’s match-up with No. 5 West Virginia, but instead was intent on using the Tar Heels to prove that they were worthy of the program’s first national ranking since joining division 1-A.
“I was concerned because in life there are so many distractions, but they seemed to be pretty focused,” USF coach Jim Leavitt said. “I thought the entire football team played extremely well against a very good North Carolina football team.”
On their first two drives, the Bulls scored two touchdowns, totaled 161 yards and erased any hope the Tar Heels had of capturing momentum early.
Junior running back Ben Williams did most of the
damage on the initial drive, rushing for 32 yards and catching a 27-yard pass before freshman Mike Ford scored the game’s opening touchdown on a 5-yard run.
The second drive – and a lot of the first half – went through quarterback Matt Grothe.
The sophomore was 6-of-7 for 58 yards and threw a touchdown to receiver Amarri Jackson on USF’s second possession.
“I think the biggest thing was coming out (strong) early,” Grothe said. “Those two drives at the beginning and getting up 14-0 (helped a lot).”
Grothe finished the first half with 216 yards, 12 shy of breaking his own school record for passing yards in a half, set last year against Syracuse.
Kicker Delbert Alvarado accounted for the rest of USF’s first-half points. The sophomore kicked field goals of 32 yards and 23 yards, respectively, and helped the Bulls to a 20-3 lead going into halftime.
Alvarado finished the game as the Bulls’ leading scorer, amassing 12 points on three field goals and three extra points.
Early in the second half, the Tar Heels got their second turnover of the game on a fumble by Grothe and could have begun to pick up momentum.
However, three plays later, senior linebacker Ben Moffitt intercepted a T.J. Yates pass attempt and returned it 41 yards, dragging UNC receiver Brooks Foster for a large chunk of the yardage.
“I thought Ben Moffitt’s interception was huge to get the field position,” Leavitt said. “(Our defensive effort) was pretty good because we got so many
Moffitt was one of four Bulls to intercept a pass against the Tar Heels, along with fellow linebacker Brouce Mompremier and defensive backs Trae Williams and Louis Gachette.
Helping to force those interceptions for the Bulls was an aggressive defensive line, including end George Selvie, who led the Bulls with 6.5 tackles and three sacks.
Running backs Williams and Jamar Taylor each had a
touchdown in the second half. Taylor’s 1-yard run in the fourth quarter was the first touchdown of the freshman’s collegiate career.
With North Carolina safely behind them, the Bulls can now focus on the No. 5 West Virginia Mountaineers, who are looking to avenge the 24-17 loss to USF in Morgantown last year that cost them a possible BCS Bowl bid.
“I would (want revenge too),” Grothe said of the Mountaineers. “But if they want it, they’ll have to come get it.”