No. 23 South Florida Tops North Carolina, 37-10
Sept. 22, 2007
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - The rapidly rising Bulls validated their first Top 25 ranking Saturday with a 37-10 victory over North Carolina, setting themselves up for next week's much-anticipated Big East showdown against No. 5 West Virginia.
Matt Grothe led long touchdown drives on USF's first two possessions, while the Bulls' swarming defense forced four turnovers and kept the young, rebuilding Tar Heels out of the end zone until just over a minute remained.
Grothe completed 17 of 30 passes for 230 yards and one touchdown before being replaced by backup Grant Gregory in the fourth quarter. The Bulls (3-0) also rushed for 194 yards and outgained North Carolina (1-3) 428-164 overall.
The Bulls, in only their 11th season, cracked the Top 25 for the first time, largely on momentum generated by last year's 9-4 finish and a 26-23 overtime victory at then-No. 17 Auburn two weeks ago.
All week long, coach Jim Leavitt and his players insisted that the ranking, and the buzz it has created around campus, would not effect their preparation for North Carolina, which has lost three straight after winning its first game under new coach Butch Davis.
The Bulls marched 78 yards after the opening kickoff to take a 7-0 lead on Mike Ford's 5-yard touchdown run, then moved 83 yards in 10 plays on their next possession to go up 14-0 on Grothe's 12-yard scoring pass to Amarri Jackson.
North Carolina lost its previous two games to East Carolina and Virginia by a total of five points. Redshirt freshman T.J. Yates threw for over 300 yards in both of those losses, however he found it much more difficult to throw against a USF secondary led by cornerbacks Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins.
The Tar Heels forced two fumbles by Grothe, but both times Yates - harassed all day by a relentless pass rush - turned the ball back over to USF on interceptions that set up field goals by Delbert Alvarado.
The quarterback's third interception, on a play when he was flushed out of the pocket, led to Benjamin Williams' 5-yard TD run that put USF up 30-3 late in the third quarter.
Yates finished 11 of 27 for 85 yards and four interceptions. Ryan Houston scored North Carolina's only touchdown on a 5-yard run with 1:04 left.