Brohm-inated: Bulls romp on Louisville, 55-17
TAMPA -- Just like that, the old Bulls are back, and then some.
The defense is shutting high-scoring offenses down, Matt Grothe is throwing and running for touchdowns, and the Bulls (8-3, 3-3) look much like the team that opened the season 6-0 and rose to No. 2 in the national rankings.
The Bulls put that all together for a dominating 55-17 victory over Louisville, a surprisingly easy final home game before a Raymond James Stadium crowd of 57,288.
"It was a great win for us, no question about it," coach Jim Leavitt said. "Our guys were ready to play and our coaches did a good job of preparing them. We won on all three phases, special teams, offense and defense."
Freshman running back Mike Ford had his second consecutive 100-yard game, rushing for a season-high 140, including 72 yards on the opening drive. USF's defense forced seven Louisville turnovers, while the Bulls committed only one.
Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm, projected as a high first-round NFL draft pick, had his worst game of the season, throwing a season-high three interceptions and passing for a season-low 213 yards.
Brohm was easily outplayed by Grothe, who got most of the fourth quarter off after throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for another. He went 17-of-23 for 194 yards and rushed 12 times for 67 yards.
USF's seniors got to go out on a high note, with cornerback Trae Williams returning an interception 64 yards for a touchdown, fellow corner Mike Jenkins getting a pick of his own and linebacker Ben Moffitt leading the way with nine tackles.
"It's a great, great feeling to be able to go out with a win and beat a team like Louisville that's so good," Moffitt said. "I love these fans. I love Tampa. It's a great feeling."
While the Bulls are returning to their best play, Louisville (5-6, 2-4) is making a good case as one of the nation's biggest disappointments. The 55 points are the most allowed by Louisville since a 56-21 loss to Southern Miss in 1998.
Two of the three most lopsided conference wins in the Big East this season have come from USF in the past eight days. The Bulls are helping their bowl scenarios and can match the school record for victories with a win at Pittsburgh next week.
"Wally Burnham and our defensive staff did an outstanding job," Leavitt said. "It's a big win for us, and we've got a couple in a row now. We know about Pittsburgh, know about the cold weather and all those kinds of things."
For the second week in a row, USF got a break on the opening kickoff. Just as Syracuse muffed the kick, setting up an easy USF touchdown, Louisville’s Trent Guy lost a fumble when he was hit by USF’s Jerome Murphy, and Nate Allen returned the loose ball 3 yards for a touchdown.
Ford took over from there, going 43 and 23 yards on USF’s first two plays, then finishing an 86-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown.
Grothe would add three first-half touchdowns, rushing for a 14-yard score, then throwing touchdowns to Marcus Edwards and Carlton Mitchell for a 34-10 lead. At halftime, Grothe had 213 yards of total offense; Louisville, which came in averaging 497 yards per game, had 173.
The defense got in on the fun, as senior cornerback Trae Williams got his fifth interception on a deflected pass, returning it 64 yards for his second touchdown this season and a 41-10 halftime lead.
Louisville had been ranked as high as No. 8 before September losses to Kentucky and Syracuse. Even at 5-5, their five losses had been by a combined 27 points, none by more than nine. The Cardinals were missing two key defensive starters, with cornerback Rod Council suspended and defensive end Peanut Whitehead out with a career-ending spinal condition discovered this week.
The margin was similar to the last time Louisville came to Tampa, when USF upset the then-No. 9 Cardinals 45-14 in the Big East debut for both schools.
USF is showing the same dominating form that got them to a 6-0 start and No. 2 national ranking, before three consecutive losses to Rutgers, Connecticut and Cincinnati. The Bulls cruised to a 41-10 win at Syracuse last week, and had that same margin at halftime against Louisville.
The Bulls will likely return as a ranked team today, as they had enough votes to be 29th last week, and No. 21 Michigan, No. 22 Cincinnati and No. 23 Kentucky all lost Saturday, as did Penn State, which was 26th.