RALEIGH, N.C. — Even in the best of his dreams, Matt Grothe is rarely this good.
USF's junior quarterback pitched the football equivalent of a perfect game while it mattered Saturday night, setting the tone in the Bulls' 41-10 dismantling of North Carolina State.
Connecting on his first 11 passes, Grothe led scoring drives of 76, 68 and 81 yards on USF's first three possessions, all culminating in touchdowns.
"He did a real good job," coach Jim Leavitt said. "We felt like we could throw the ball a little bit, and we did. He had a good night."
The Bulls ran 29 offensive plays in the first 17 minutes, 42 seconds. Not one lost yardage, and the only negative play was a false start on tight end Trent Pupello early in the second quarter.
But on the next play, Grothe got the yardage right back with the third of seven completions to Jessie Hester. Two plays later, Mike Ford scored from 1 yard, giving USF a 21-3 cushion.
"We were good in every area (Saturday night)," said offensive coordinator Greg Gregory, whose unit bogged down repeatedly last week against Florida International. "And I felt like we would be, because we were sharp all week in practice.
"You know, we feel like we've got a good scheme, both running and throwing the ball. It's a matter of whether we execute, and we executed. It started in practice this week, and it carried over to the game."
It started with Grothe, whose game management seems to improve by the week. After throwing 14 interceptions each of the past two seasons, he has only been picked off twice in the Bulls' 5-0 start.
"It was a matter of taking what the defense was giving me," Grothe said. "We knew we could do some things (passing) from what we had seen on film. We executed and made plays when we needed to."
Grothe made them with his legs as well, rushing for a season-high 68 yards on nine carries. Couple that with 20-of-29 passing for 259 yards (and one touchdown) and it made for a nice impression on N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien.
"(Grothe) was outstanding," O'Brien said. "He's throwing the ball better this year than he did last year. Most of the time we were rushing forward to try and keep (Grothe) in the pocket. We'll have to re-evaluate that if we play them again."
As a bonus, Grothe gave way late to backups Grant Gregory and B.J. Daniels. With Pittsburgh coming to Raymond James Stadium on Thursday, the little bit of extra rest can't hurt.
"We've got a short week with a big game coming up," he said. "We've got to get right back to work."