Grothe injury stands out in 59-0 USF rout
TAMPA – How can a 59-0 win be the biggest loss of a team's season?USF dominated I-AA Charleston Southern on Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium, but the victory was overshadowed by a potentially serious injury to senior quarterback Matt Grothe.
Grothe, who has started the last 41 games for USF, went down with left knee sprain in the second quarter and winced in pain as was helped off the field by trainers. The severity of the injury could be known Sunday.
"When Matt went down, I'm not going to lie. The sound of his screaming, it tore me up," receiver Carlton Mitchell said. "As soon as he went down, I went on one knee and started praying. I feel for Matt. I love him. That's my senior, my leader I've been here with for three years."
Grothe's backup, redshirt freshman B.J. Daniels, played well in relief, accounting for three touchdowns and 254 yards of total offense, but now may be asked to do the same next week in his hometown of Tallahassee when the Bulls face Florida State.
"My heart goes out to him," said Daniels, who passed for 149 yards and rushed for 105. "He's really worked, and he's taught me a lot. Whatever happens, I'm going to pray. Hopefully he'll be OK, but if things don't turn out well, I'm going to play for him."
Grothe has been the face of USF football for his four seasons, and the injury came on the kind of play he’s been known for, a 9-yard scramble for a first down.
His left leg was bent beneath him as he was tackled, and USF coach Jim Leavitt immediately ran out on the field, signaling for trainers. Grothe was helped off the field, not putting weight on his leg as he left the field. He later returned to USF's sidelines on crutches.
"I saw right away when he planted that something ... it was almost like before it happened, something told me to sprint out to him," Leavitt said. "Matt's a franchise guy. We all know that. What he's done in college football is extraordinary. He's one of the great names out there. Hopefully it won't be too bad, but we have to wait and see. We don't know. But he's a special guy."
Though Grothe’s injury took the air out of a crowd announced at 38,798, Daniels showed more of the promise he’d shown with two touchdowns in relief appearances in the first two games. Daniels threw for a 50-yard touchdown to Dontavia Bogan on his first drive and led the Bulls to touchdowns on his first four possessions, scoring himself on runs of 16 and 7 yards.
"You can see he can do some electric things with his ability. He's special," offensive coordinator Mike Canales said. "He's been training all spring and fall, had a good camp, and now he's got to step up and be the guy we hope him to be, expect him to be."
Grothe had been efficient in leading the Bulls to a 28-0 lead, with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Bogan and a perfect 50-yard scoring pass to Mitchell. USF led 21-0 when safety Nate Allen returned a blocked field goal 75 yards for a touchdown, and running back Mike Ford, returning from a two-game suspension, scored for a 28-0 lead barely a minute into the second quarter.
USF's defense, after giving up 100-yard rushers in the first two games, was stout, holding CSU to 163 yards in the first three quarters. It was USF's first shutout since Syracuse in 2005, but any joy from the win was mitigated by Grothe's injury.
After three lightweight opponents, the Bulls now travel to Tallahassee to face an FSU team that dominated No. 7 BYU 54-28 on the road. While they might have lost a senior leader Saturday, the Bulls played well enough on both sides of the ball to gain confidence for next week.
"I think it was real important, psychologically," Leavitt said of his team's strong play. "It's a whole different world now. A totally different world. Our guys understand that and know it's night and day what's ahead now. They'll respond."