CINCINNATI — USF's Matt Grothe said Monday that Nippert Stadium was his favorite place the Bulls had visited, if only for the old-school design of the Bearcats' homefield.
But the quarterback can't be as happy with his performances at Nippert, where the Bulls have seen two lopsided losses and the two lowest-rated performances of his USF career.
"They had us tonight. That's all I can say," Grothe said after Thursday's 24-10 loss. "We couldn't do anything. They did a good job of stopping us, and we did a good job of stopping ourselves."
Grothe, selected as a game captain for the first time in his Bulls career, went 13-for-31 on Thursday with no touchdowns and three interceptions. It marked the lowest completion percentage of his 35 career games, and his passer rating of 20.8 is also his lowest ever.
The junior's previous low rating was his last game at Nippert, a 23-8 loss in 2006 that saw him pass for 47 yards in 21 attempts. Grothe has had only three games at USF in which he failed to pass or rush for a touchdown; two of them have come at Nippert.
Thursday's statistics weren't all Grothe's fault, as his receivers consistently failed to bring in catchable passes, with at least five drops on a night in which Cincinnati's receivers had several highlight-reel catches. Grothe's third interception came on a pass that TE Cedric Hill juggled into the arms of CB DeAngelo Smith.
Asked what has changed about USF from the team that opened 5-0 and was ranked No. 10 just a month ago, Grothe said he didn't have an answer.
"I have no idea," he said. "That's a good question. Something."
BIG CHANGE: Before Thursday, Cincinnati hadn't converted a third down in its previous two games, going a combined 0-for-25, but the Bearcats had no such troubles against the Bulls.
QB Tony Pike converted on third and 10 in the first quarter with a 48-yard pass to WR Marty Gilyard. The Bearcats went 4-for-5 on third downs in the first half in building a 17-7 lead.
THIS AND THAT: The 49-yard field goal by freshman Maikon Bonani is a season long for him by 5 yards. It's the fourth longest in USF history and the longest since Delbert Alvarado hit a Big East record 56-yarder against Syracuse in 2006. … DE George Selvie, who saw some action as a roving "spy" linebacker, said the Bulls tried the defensive strategy after seeing Oklahoma use it against the Bearcats this season.
Greg Auman can be reached at (813) 226-3346 and at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf.