TAMPA — In a season riddled with injury after injury, this could be the biggest for USF: QB Matt Grothe wore a boot on his left foot after Saturday's 49-16 loss to Rutgers, saying he sprained his ankle. But he said he expects to play in next week's home finale against Connecticut.
Grothe, who walked into the interview room after the game but left in a cart, said his ankle was "twisted backwards" on a rollout in the fourth quarter. USF sent backup Grant Gregory in for its final possession, which ended with a fumble, USF's sixth turnover of the game.
"I'll be all right," said Grothe, who passed for 292 yards and rushed for a team-high 50, but threw three interceptions. "I played the rest of the series, but (they) didn't want me to get more hurt."
Grothe, who accounted for 94 percent of USF's total offense, hasn't missed a game in his three seasons, having started USF's past 35 games.
MORE INJURIES: The Bulls played without starting CB Quenton Washington, a redshirt freshman out with a back injury. Rutgers WR Kenny Britt caught eight passes for 173 yards, including a 93-yard touchdown, but the corner who missed the tackle on that pass was junior Jerome Murphy.
FINALLY, A START: Senior S Louis Gachette, in his 46th game at USF, got his first career start and made the most of it. Gachette finished with a game-high 11 tackles, four more than his closest teammate.
He wasn't the only senior safety having a big game. Carlton Williams, in his 44th start, one shy of the school record, had two interceptions. Williams had two picks in his first three seasons with the Bulls; he has three this season.
GOOD AND BAD: Junior WR Jessie Hester had a career-best 10 catches, one off the school record, and set a career high with 110 yards. But his biggest play was a fumble after a catch late in the third quarter as the Bulls were driving to get within a touchdown.
TWEAKS: USF shifted its offensive line because of injuries, with RT Marc Dile starting at left tackle and LT Ryan Schmidt moving to right guard, which moved RG Jake Sims to right tackle. Sims left with an injury in the third quarter, so senior Zach Hermann, still recovering from a broken leg, stepped in at right guard, with Dile and Schmidt returning to their normal positions.
THREE STRAIGHT: Two weeks ago, USF had never lost to the same team three years in a row. Now, they've done that against two teams, with Cincinnati and Rutgers each picking up wins for the third year in a row. The Bulls haven't lost more than one in a row to any of their other opponents this season.
THIS AND THAT: DE George Selvie, still touted as an All-America candidate, was held to two tackles, neither for a loss. He has no sacks in three games against the Scarlet Knights. … Rutgers got 98 yards and two touchdowns from freshman Joe Martinek, who had 138 yards for the year coming in. … RB Mike Ford, trying to return from an ankle injury, had one carry, came off the field and didn't return. USF's running backs totaled 21 yards on 10 carries.
Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf.