On the second offensive play of the game for No. 19 South Florida, junior quarterback Matt Grothe hit senior wide-receiver Taurus Johnson on a 13-yard pass.
It was a sign of things to come.
Grothe found Johnson twice more in the game — both for touchdowns — en route to a 45-13 victory over the Syracuse Orange at Raymond James Stadium.
“It feels good,” Johnson said. “Anytime I can help my team to win it’s good. Whenever coach calls my number I just tell Matt (Grothe) that I got this.”
Johnson caught his second of two touchdowns on a nine-yard pass from Grothe with twelve seconds left in the third quarter to put the Bulls up 35-13.
Coach Jim Leavitt said he was impressed with Johnson’s performance.
“Taurus Johnson’s catch was as good as you’ll see,” he said. “The way he ripped that away from the defender — I just thought he had a really good game.”
Leavitt also said he was impressed with Grothe’s performance. He finished with 320 yards total offense and four touchdowns.
“I thought he played extremely well today,” he said. “I thought the offense played well as a whole.”
Despite Grothe and Johnson’s play, the Bulls remained a little over a touchdown ahead of the Orange, having a 21-13 lead into halftime. Syracuse running back Curtis Brinkley rushed for 112 yards in the first two quarters, including a 24-yard touchdown. Senior linebacker Tyrone McKenzie said the defense came out lagging.
“I think we should have come out and played better in the first half,” he said. “It is what it is though, and we played well in the second half.”
To some, “played well” may seem like an understatement.
USF’s defense shutout the Orange in the second half, holding them to nine yards offensively and zero first downs. The Bulls offense scored 24 second-half points to secure the win.
“I thought we were strong in all three phases of the game,” Leavitt said after the game. “I was impressed with the special teams, the offense and the defense.”
For more on this story, see Monday’s edition of the Oracle.