Scores
MAGICJACK ST. PETERSBURG BOWL

Final

Memphis 14

(6-7, 4-4 American)

South Florida 41

(8-5, 2-5 American)

Coverage: ESPN2

4:30 PM ET, December 20, 2008

1 2 3 4 T
MEM 7 7 0 014
USF 14 10 10 741

Top Performers

Passing: M. Grothe (USF) - 236 YDS, 3 TD

Rushing: M. Grothe (USF) - 15 CAR, 83 YDS

Receiving: D. Calhoun (MEM) - 6 REC, 39 YDS, 1 TD

Grothe throws for 236 yards, three TDs as South Florida dominates Memphis

Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Matt Grothe and South Florida didn't have a problem getting motivated for what amounted to an extra home game. After floundering the second half of the season, the magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl gave them a chance to feel good about themselves again.

Fast Facts

• South Florida leads the all-time series against Memphis 3-2.

• The Bulls have made a bowl game the last four seasons, which is every year they've been in the Big East, with this being their second win.

• After starting the season 5-0 against non-conference opponents, South Florida went 2-5 against conference opponents.

• Of the 12 teams to start the season 0-3, Memphis and Rutgers are the only schools that qualified for bowl games with six wins.

-- ESPN research

"I think the last few weeks we were trying so hard to win a game that we forgot how to play football," Grothe said after throwing for 236 yards and three touchdowns on the way to a 41-14 rout of Memphis on Saturday.

The junior quarterback moved ahead of West Virginia's Pat White as the Big East's career total offense leader, also rushing for 83 yards on 15 carries to earn the most outstanding player award.

Grothe and White, a senior who will finish his season in the Meineke Bowl on Dec. 27, are the only players in league history to amass more than 10,000 yards total offense. White has 10,142 in 49 games, and Grothe finished the night with 10,242 in 39 games.

"Its easy to get away from (playing the way he expects to play) and easy to lose focus whenever we get down," Grothe said. "In my opinion, whenever ... we can just go out and play football and not worry about what people are saying, then we do well."

USF (8-5) scored on four of its first five possessions to build a 24-14 halftime lead, forcing Memphis (6-7) to play catch-up and essentially taking 1,000-yard rusher Curtis Steele out of the Tigers' game plan.

"The bottom line was we couldn't tackle the quarterback," Memphis coach Tommy West said. "They beat us pretty good on both sides of the ball."

Arkelon Hall threw for one TD and ran for another, however Steele was held to 48 yards rushing on 12 attempts by a stout run defense determined to redeem itself this postseason after giving up 253 yards to Oregon's Jonathan Stewart during USF's lopsided loss in last year's Sun Bowl.

Grothe threw TD passes of 26 yards to Taurus Johnson, 13 to Ben Busbee and 24 to Dontavia Bogan before being replaced by Grant Gregory with USF leading 34-14 late in the third quarter.

Hall, meanwhile, was 15-of-31 for 154 yards and no interceptions, with much of that coming on a swing pass that Steele turned into a 50-yard gain early in the second half. He ran 3 yards for a first-quarter touchdown, then threw 2 yards to Duke Calhoun for the Tigers' other TD just before halftime.

It was the first meeting between the former Conference USA rivals since USF left that league for the Big East in 2005. The teams split four games between 2001 and 2004, and Memphis relished the challenge of facing an opponent from a BCS conference for the first time in five bowl appearances under coach Tommy West.

The Tigers, who won six of nine games to become bowl eligible after an 0-3 start, viewed Saturday as an opportunity to gauge how much they've progressed toward a goal of having a BCS-caliber program.

On this day, they were nowhere close to a South Florida team that began the season with high expectations after being ranked as high as No. 2 by the Associated Press in 2007. The Bulls won their first five before stumbling badly in the Big East and winding up in a bowl game just 32 miles from USF's main campus in Tampa.

Tropicana Field in downtown St. Petersburg is close enough that coach Jim Leavitt and his players bused from the team hotel back to campus for practice all week, truly making it seem like an extra home game rather than a bowl trip.

"Our guys did a great job of getting us to this stage. We've got some work to do to belong on this stage," West said, adding that the Tigers were not fast enough or physical enough to keep pace with the Bulls.

Memphis fell to 0-3 against opponents from BCS conferences this season and is 2-13 since 2001.

"We're pretty good at throwing it and catching it. But when you're a non-BCS team playing a BCS team, to play on that stage you have to match what they do, and you have to get more physical," West said. "You could see today why they're a BCS team and we're not."

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Team Stat Comparison

 
MEM
USF
1st Downs1529
Total Yards238496
Passing172264
Rushing66232
Penalties3-257-70
3rd Down Conversions5-157-13
4th Down Conversions0-20-1
Turnovers01
Possession25:1634:44

Passing Leaders

MemphisC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Hall15/311545.010
South FloridaC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Grothe17/242369.830

Rushing Leaders

MemphisCARYDSAVGTDLG
Steele12484.0013
Ross7111.606
South FloridaCARYDSAVGTDLG
Grothe15835.5032
Ford8344.3025

Receiving Leaders

MemphisRECYDSAVGTDLG
Steele14949.006
Calhoun6396.5111
South FloridaRECYDSAVGTDLG
Mitchell46015.0019
Bogan35117.0124

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERMEMUSF
TD13:58Taurus Johnson 26 Yd Pass From Matt Grothe (Maikon Bonani Kick) 07
TD04:28Benjamin Williams 3 Yd Run (Maikon Bonani Kick) 014
TD02:09Arkelon Hall 3 Yd Run (Matt Reagan Kick) 714
SECOND QUARTERMEMUSF
FG11:18Maikon Bonani 23 Yd 717
TD04:15Ben Busbee 13 Yd Pass From Matt Grothe (Maikon Bonani Kick) 724
TD00:08Duke Calhoun 2 Yd Pass From Arkelon Hall (Matt Reagan Kick) 1424
THIRD QUARTERMEMUSF
FG08:36Maikon Bonani 37 Yd 1427
TD01:50Dontavia Bogan 24 Yd Pass From Matt Grothe (Maikon Bonani Kick) 1434
FOURTH QUARTERMEMUSF
TD12:40Moise Plancher 2 Yd Run (Maikon Bonani Kick) 1441