Performances from the offense, defense and special teams came together to pull out one of the most amazing and meaningful wins in USF history during Friday’s game against Kansas.
Quarterback Matt Grothe, safety Nate Allen and kicker Maikon Bonani each contributed to make the upset possible.
Grothe gives Bulls a second chance
Without Grothe, Bonani would never have had the chance to kick the game-winning field goal. Grothe was as passionate and as determined to win the game as I have ever seen him.
Against Rutgers last year, Grothe shrank under the spotlight, got sacked seven times and couldn’t deliver when the team needed him most.
One year later, Grothe didn’t shrink under the spotlight — he thrived in it.
That is the Matt Grothe USF fans have been waiting for — the quarterback the Bulls need him to be. He went pass-for-pass against Kansas’ Todd Reesing, a quality quarterback. He avoided turnovers and started USF’s furious comeback from a 20-3 deficit with his 28-yard touchdown run that made the score 20-10 and kept the Bulls in the game.
Grothe wasn’t satisfied, however.
Reesing was toying with the USF defense for most of the first half, and managing to get an interception from him looked as improbable as rain in the Sahara. Grothe knew that, so he stood tall in the pocket and got in “the zone.”
Once he got in that proverbial mindset, nobody could take him out of it. Grothe avoided letting the Kansas defense put any pressure on him by getting rid of the ball quickly.
His greatest accomplishment came in the third quarter after throwing the touchdown pass to wide receiver Taurus Johnson, tying the game 20-20.
As precise as it was, the pass itself wasn’t as much of an accomplishment as Grothe’s reaction.
As the play was being reviewed and the replay was shown on the Jumbotron, Grothe jumped up and down, yelling and pumping his fist. That simple act of emotion showed everybody in the student section how much he cares about winning and that he wasn’t about to let the game slip away.
Allen gives the Bulls a second chance
As much as Grothe did to bring the Bulls back, Allen saved the game, plain and simple. If Allen hadn’t made that interception, Grothe’s comeback heroics would have been overshadowed by Reesing’s ability to overcome a 34-20 deficit in the fourth quarter and how he slipped a pass over Allen’s fingertips to set up Kansas’ potential winning field goal.
Allen wouldn’t let that happen. He leaped to intercept Reesing’s biggest mistake of the game and set up Bonani’s shining moment.
Bonani brings in the win
Imagine you’ve just been hired out of college to a high-profile law firm, they immediately assign you to a high-profile assignment as your first case, and the whole firm is depending on you to come through.
Well, Bonani had to do the football equivalent of that as USF’s season rested on his right leg. No pressure, kid.
Bonani’s game-winning field goal hooked right, was blown back left by the wind and squeaked through the uprights. Such a nail-biting moment wouldn’t have happened with the right play-calling, though.
USF was at the Kansas 26-yard line with 26 seconds left and one timeout. What did coach Jim Leavitt and offensive coordinator Greg Gregory do? They decided to run a single play for a one-yard gain and let the clock slip to two seconds before calling a timeout.
Leavitt is a great coach, and USF owes all its progress and present success to him, but his play-calling in the last two minutes of games this season has been highly questionable.
If USF had a timeout left, why not run at least one more play, gain three or four yards and have a more accessible field goal up the middle?
Bonani got a rousing standing ovation after the game ended, and he deserved it. But it was the work of all three facets of the team that made the upset possible.