S. Florida 41, McNeese St. 10
TAMPA, Fla. (AP)—Matt Grothe came off the bench to throw for two touchdowns and run for a third, helping South Florida shrug off early mistakes to beat McNeese State 41-10 on Saturday night.
Grothe replaced injured starting quarterback Pat Julmiste early in the second quarter and completed nine of 13 passes for 171 yards, including TD throws of 47 yards to Marcus Edwards and 10 yards to Ean Randolph.
The redshirt freshman’s 1-yard TD run wiped out a 7-0 lead McNeese State took when Jared Dolan recovered punter Ilia Petrov’s fumble in the end zone for a touchdown in the first quarter. The Division I-AA Cowboys (0-1) led 10-7 before Grothe’s first TD pass in the third quarter.
Walt Smith scored on runs of 3 and 24 yards as USF scored on five consecutive possessions over the last 18 minutes of the game. Keeley Dorsey finished the rout with a 52-yard TD burst on the last play.
Grothe’s ability to spark an offense that struggled early with an interception, fumble, missed field goal and Petrov’s botched punt will spur a quarterback controversy that’s been brewing since the end of last season.
Julmiste started 11 of 12 games as a junior and led the Bulls to the first bowl appearance in school history. But the Bulls were inconsistent on offense, and the strong-armed quarterback faced a stiff challenge from Grothe for the starting job in spring drills and practice this summer.
Coach Jim Leavitt declined to declare who was No. 1 in the weeks leading up to Saturday’s game, saying only that if the players were equal he’d likely go with Julmiste because of the senior’s experience.
When Julmiste came up limping after scrambling for 18 yards to the McNeese State 22, Leavitt didn’t hesitate to turn to the backup.
Five plays later, Grothe finished a 66-yard drive with a 1-yard TD dive that made it 7-7. His scoring pass to Edwards with 2:04 remaining in the third quarter atoned for a fumble the quarterback lost to stop a promising drive that included a 64-yard completion to Cedric Hill on USF’s previous possession.
Julmiste, who limped up the sideline to congratulate Grothe after the go-ahead TD, went 5-of-8 for 38 yards and was intercepted once.
The Bulls also lost starting running back Moise Plancher to injury. The replacement for USF’s all-time leading rusher Andre Hall carried four times for 26 yards on the opening drive of the game and didn’t play again.
As with Julmiste, there was no announcement on the nature of Plancher’s injury.