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Grothe ensures Bulls finish UCF series unbeaten

USF quarterback Matt Grothe gets brought down by Central Florida linebacker Lawrence Young during the third quarter.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

USF quarterback Matt Grothe gets brought down by Central Florida linebacker Lawrence Young during the third quarter.

ORLANDO — Think of it as dialing long distance. Think of it as a call to say goodbye.

Or, if you prefer, think of it as the moment Matt Grothe hung up on a rivalry that never was.

It was over now, the game and the series and the foolishness that surrounded it all, and Grothe stood in front of the Central Florida football section. His thumb was up, and his pinky was extended, as if to signal to the crowd that, once again, it had the wrong number.

Just like that, the Knights' minutes were up.

Just like that, Grothe had proven to be a smooth operator once again.

In the end, it was his night. On third and 10 in overtime, Grothe had thrown a perfect 25-yard touchdown pass to Taurus Johnson, and just like that, no one was going to remember the moments when the game felt dangerous, the moments when the upset felt possible, not even the moments when a noisy series finally felt like a rivalry.

In the end, it was merely another night in Grothe's phone plan.

Over his three seasons, Grothe, the essential Bull, has had himself some moments, and a great many of them have come at the expense of Central Florida. This, however, was Grothe's finest moment.

It was third and 10, and Grothe was down to his last throw. A miss here and the Bulls would have been forced to try a field goal, and they had missed two already, and who knows what might have happened on the Knights' ensuing possession?

Instead, Grothe dropped back, and he threw a perfect strike to Johnson in the end zone.

Just like that, the Bulls were able to walk away from this noisy series with a swagger.

After this, if the Knights' fans have something to say to Grothe, it's going to cost them a long-distance call. Wait. That won't work, either.

Oh, it worked for most of Saturday, after someone found Grothe's cell number. Suddenly, his phone was jammed with "about a thousand" missed calls. His voicemail was filled. He had "a couple of hundred" text messages.

All that and he still had enough minutes to dial up Johnson in the end zone. And shouldn't everyone have a phone plan like Grothe's?

Perhaps you should have known this was coming. Grothe always has worn out the Knights. In three seasons, he has thrown for 860 yards and rushed for 227 and accounted for 10 touchdowns.

Ah, but you do not measure a quarterback by numbers. You measure him by moments. And if you saw Grothe in front of the UCF student section, holding out his thumb and pinky like a cell phone, then you know this was his version of the hangup.

"I probably like this one the best" of the UCF victories, Grothe said. "Just because I can't stand them, and I'm glad we're not playing them. I'm tired of everyone talking (stuff) and evidently not being able to back it up."

What more can a team ask of a quarterback than this? Time after time, Grothe would stop the freefall and take the game into his hands. Time after time, he would call an end to the silliness and restore the efficiency. That's what Grothe accomplished Saturday night. He gave the Central Florida fans something to remember him by. The USF fans, too.

It was a 400-yard night for Grothe, 346 of them through the air and 54 net yards on the ground. More than that, however, it was a night of moments. Of the ones Grothe made. Of the one he allowed his team to avoid.

There was the third quarter, when Grothe hit 8 of 10 passes for two scores to give USF a two-touchdown lead. There was the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, when five completions moved the Bulls into field-goal range (they missed).

Then a two-touchdown lead was squandered, and a 2-1 edge in yardage didn't matter. It was overtime, and third down, and the Knights had to know that Grothe was going to air it out.

And Grothe was perfect.

For four games against the Knights, the Bulls were, too.

Oh, it's going to drive the fans of the Knights crazy to think of this as the final chapter in this series. The truth of it, however, is that this game was never a rivalry no matter what the map says and no matter how loud the bloggers get. Windshields do not consider bugs to be rivals, and Tennessee does not entertain such thoughts about Memphis, nor Southern Cal about Fresno State, nor Florida about Florida Atlantic. Pretty much, rivals have to come from comparable conferences.

Oh, you can imagine the talk this week if UCF had pulled out Saturday night's game. Doppler would have picked up the jabber approaching from the east.

Grothe spared us all that. He brought an end to the rivalry that never was. He made sure the final act was a signature moment. He won the game, for himself and for his team, on sheer will.

All in all, it was a pretty good way to say good night to the not-quite-good-enough Knights.

Grothe ensures Bulls finish UCF series unbeaten 09/06/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 10, 2008 8:08am]
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