Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Greatest point ever: Matt Grothe's TD pass to Jessie Hester in USF's 2007 overtime win at Auburn

Without a conference championship in its short history, USF presents a challenge when debating its greatest point ever scored. Key plays in several of the biggest upsets have put USF on the map in the past five years.

The Bulls have beaten higher-ranked opponents, but the win that set in motion USF's great run to No. 2 in the nation in 2007 came Sept. 8, when the Bulls went into Auburn and shocked the No. 17 Tigers with a 26-23 win in overtime at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The winning score — keeping USF perfect in its history in overtime — was a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Grothe to receiver Jessie Hester Jr.

Quite a first

The touchdown reception was the first of Hester's career, on a play he remembers as "Shin 560 Shin Elbow," something they'd drilled extensively in the days leading up to the Auburn game. "I knew it would be open after reading the coverage," he said. "I knew it would be there. Everything that happened the way it did that night, it was incredible."

Hester was the nearest of three receivers on the left side, and as the outside receivers stopped for short routes, Hester made a cut left to the left corner, pulling away from safety Eric Brock, and Grothe threw a low pass that Hester pulled in for the score, silencing the Auburn crowd.

"It was crazy," Hester said. "You didn't hear a thing, except the USF fans and my teammates."

The image of Hester raising the ball in celebration, passing in front of an official raising his hands to signal a touchdown with a dejected Auburn student section in the background, is one of the most memorable moments in USF's 15-year history. The victory led to USF's first national ranking, and the Bulls won their next four games to rise to No. 2 in the national polls, sparking USF's first sellouts at Raymond James Stadium against West Virginia and Central Florida.

"This win at Auburn," ESPN's broadcasters said that night, "is a program-maker."

Brought to you by …

Former USF coach Jim Leavitt is quick to point out the other major plays that made Grothe-to-Hester possible. Fans might remember that kicker Delbert Alvarado missed four field goals in the second half and Leavitt stuck with him as Alvarado came through on a tying kick with 55 seconds left. Fans probably remember that cornerback Jerome Murphy had a wild 59-yard kickoff return to set up that field goal after Auburn took a 20-17 lead with less than three minutes left.

But how many remember how the Bulls got to the 14-yard line in overtime? Trailing 23-20, USF was faced with a fourth-and-1 call at the 16, and Leavitt decided to go for it, with Grothe converting a 2-yard keeper to the left. Grothe carried the ball on four of USF's first five plays in overtime, another reason why a safety might have been slow in picking up a receiver as he watched for a potential run.

Where are they now?

Grothe has fully recovered from the knee injury that ended his USF career early in his senior year in 2009, and he has yet to play in a pro game after tryouts and short stints in the NFL, UFL, CFL and Arena League. He is now trying out with the Tampa Bay Storm. Between pro workouts, he worked this past season as a substitute teacher at his alma mater, Lake Gibson High School. Hester, who graduated with a degree in criminology, is still in Tampa, working as a manager at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and hoping to soon enter the police academy and join the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

Send your memories of the play to [email protected]


Auman's top 5

Bulls beat writer Greg Auman ranks the five greatest scores in USF history.

1. Matt Grothe's touchdown pass to Jessie Hester Jr. in overtime to win at Auburn in 2007.

2. B.J. Daniels' 73-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Griffin in the win at Florida State in 2009.

3. Carlton Mitchell's sideline-tightwire touchdown catch in the 2007 upset of West Virginia.

4. George Selvie's fumble-return touchdown in the 2006 upset win at West Virginia.

5. Ben Moffitt's pick-six interception to spark USF's sold-out win vs. West Virginia in 2007.

On the Web: Rank these five scores in the order of your preference in an interactive poll at

Greatest point ever

The St. Petersburg Times is ranking the top scoring plays in the history of the area pro teams and college football programs.

Sunday: Bucs

Monday: Rays

Tuesday: Lightning

. Today: USF

Thursday: Florida

Friday: Florida State

On the Web

Follow the St. Petersburg Times' greatest point series, including previous stories, polls and video, throughout the week at


Greatest point ever: Matt Grothe's TD pass to Jessie Hester in USF's 2007 overtime win at Auburn 07/12/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 10:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay Downs full of high-paying races this season


    OLDSMAR — Tampa Bay Downs is green like never before.

  2. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  3. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.
  4. Quarterback Jameis Winston will start Sunday for the Bucs


    TAMPA — Jameis Winston hadn't thrown in practice since he injured his right shoulder in Sunday's loss at Arizona, and with that uncertainty, a wide line of TV cameras and reporters' cellphones were all out Friday morning, recording the moment as Winston tested his shoulder with his first throws early in …

    Despite a sore shoulder, Jameis Winston will be making his 38th consecutive start since being drafted first overall in 2015.
  5. Bucs journal: LB Kwon Alexander ready to return from injury


    TAMPA — LB Kwon Alexander, sidelined by a hamstring injury since the second quarter of the Bucs' season opener against Chicago, will finally make a healthy return Sunday against the Bills.

    Linebacker Kwon Alexander needs “to get my stats back up” after being out since the opener.