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Now that was close.

South Florida, 20-point favorites over Florida International Saturday, was down by six with less than three minutes left in the game before a fumble recovery allowed the Bulls to get the ball back and go in and score to escape with a 21-20 win.

Scary? Yes, but it was a win and USF is 2-0 heading into next week’s second straight Florida game, this one at Central Florida.

“Any loss is devastating, I don’t care who you lose to,†said linebacker Ben Moffitt, whose strip led to Richard Clebert’s recovery – and then to Matt Grothe’s 29-yard TD pass to Taurus Johnson. “It doesn’t matter, but hey, we won. In college football, if you win by one, you win. A win is a win is a win.â€Â

And, in some ways, a strange win like this can mean more than blowing a weaker team out.

Freshman Matt Grothe, making his first career start, hit Johnson with the winning pass just two plays after the fumble recovery. “Something just told me we would win,†Grothe said. “I was just calming myself down as much as I could (when he went back on the field after the fumble).â€Â

Johnson scored his first two career touchdowns on the game, the first on an outstanding 14-yard reverse run that saw him shake a tackler 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage. The other USF score, the first one, was a 76-yard punt return by Ean Randolph.


GAME BALL GOES TO: LB Ben Moffitt –- He made eight tackles in the game, but his strip of Julian Reams led to Richard Clebert’s recovery with 2:52 left and USF down by six points. “The fumble was a miracle,†said quarterback Matt Grothe.

KEEP AN EYE ON: QB Matt Grothe –- Having turned 20 on Friday, Grothe made his first start Saturday and came up a winner, even though former starter Pat Julmiste was told to warm up in the second half. Grothe hit Taurus Johnson with the game-winning 29-yard TD pass.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “This is as big as it gets. We tell our guys to never quit –- ever, ever. You play to the end. You don’t know what might happen.†–- USF coach Jim Leavitt after his team’s come-from-behind win over Florida International


LOOKING GOOD: LB Ben Moffitt  He stripped Florida International runner Juiam Reams of the ball as Saturday’s game entered the final three minutes Saturday. The fumble recovery led to USF pulling out a game as 20-point favorites. Moffitt had eight tackles in the game.

QB Matt Grothe – Making his first career start, Grothe, in the words of his coach, Jim Leavitt, “did some good things and some not-so-good things.†He was 15-of-28 for 178 yards and two picks – but had the game-winning TD pass. “He knows he has to improve,†Leavitt said. Grothe also led his team in rushing with 82 yards.

PR Ean Randolph  He had 123 yards on two returns, including a 76-yarder for a score, USF’s first of the game.

WR Taurus Johnson –- He scored the first two TDs of his career, one on a remarkable 14-yard reverse that saw him shed a tackler 10 yards behind the line and the other the 29-yard game-winner from Grothe. Johnson had six catches for 106 yards.

STILL NEEDS WORK: The Bulls should have beaten this team by more than a single point – they were 20-point favorites coming in. But they won and that’s really what counts.

They also gave up an 82-yard punt return by Chand Williams for a touchdown that produced the first deficit of the game.

Grothe, who turned 20 Friday, needs work but he’s showing real signs of what the hype is all about.

ROSTER REPORT: RB Moise Plancher, seen as the lead guy after the loss of Andre Hall, has now been ruled out for the season with a torn ACL.

There were no injury reports after the game –- the Bulls are still dealing with an unannounced suspension situation regarding three players.

C Ryan Schmidt, a transfer from Kansas State, won his appeal with the NCAA and was ruled immediately eligible.

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