Bowl Player Profile & History
Posted Dec 13, 2006

2006 Bowl Player Profile, History & More

South Florida (8-4) vs. East Carolina (7-5)

Dec. 23rd  1 p.m.  ESPN2

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By Richard Cirminiello Bowl Player Profile
QB Matt Grothe, USF – Ronnie Banks.  Pat Julmiste.  Carlton Hill.  Evan Kraky.  No one has come remotely close to replacing Marquel Blackwell, one of the program’s most important pioneers, since he left Tampa four years ago.  No one until now, that is.  Grothe competed with Julmiste in the spring, replaced the injured starter in the season opener and then proceeded to lock down the job each Saturday of the fall.  Sure, he’s thrown 14 interceptions, not uncommon for a redshirt freshman, but he’s also guided the Bulls with all the savvy of a third-year starter and earned post-season recognition as the Big East Rookie of the Year.  Channeling his inner Flutie, the versatile 6-foot, 195-pound Grothe took a beating all year, yet still led South Florida in passing, rushing and scoring, while getting his hand in 23 of the offense’s 35 touchdowns.  He certainly doesn’t possess a cannon, but he throws catchable balls, weaves in and out of traffic when he leaves the pocket and plays with a fiery passion that rubs off on the rest of his teammates.  In terms of intangibles, leadership skills and late game poise, Grothe is exactly the kind of quarterback head coach Jim Leavitt wants with the ball in his hands.  South Florida spent most of the last four years searching for a worthy heir apparent to Blackwell.  It’ll spend the next three seasons building its offense around a young dual-threat quarterback that’s about to become the face of the program as it enters the next phase of its evolution.            
Best Bull Bowl Moment – Only program architect Jim Leavitt and the blind optimist could have believed South Florida would be bowl bound after a mere decade as a football entity.  Yet, that’s what happened in last year’s Meineke Car Care Bowl.  Even a dreadful 14-0 loss to North Carolina State couldn’t douse the program’s excitement over playing in the post-season for the first time in its brief history.       

Best Pirate Bowl Moment – In one of the most memorable wins in school history, East Carolina rallied from a 17-point fourth quarter deficit to beat long-time rival North Carolina State in the 1992 Peach Bowl.  In front of the largest crowd to ever watch two North Carolina teams play, Pirate QB Jeff Blake ran for a score and threw a pair of touchdown passes in the final eight minutes for a pulsating 37-34 victory.  The win gave the Pirates state bragging rights and a No. 9 ranking in the final AP poll. 

South Florida's best win ... South Florida 24 ... West Virginia 19
South Florida's defense stunned West Virginia by forcing four turnovers and holding the Mountaineer rushing offense to 132 rushing yards. The Bulls overcame an early 6-0 deficit with a fumble recovery for a score and a ten-yard Matt Grothe run, and went up for good with a 21-yard Ean Randolph scoring grab. West Virginia came back with Pat White's second touchdown pass of the game to Brandon Myles with a 44-yard play with just over five minutes to play, but its final drive was stopped early on an interception from Trae Williams off a tipped pass.

South Florida's worst loss ... Cincinnati 23 ... South Florida 6
Cincinnati's defense came up with a first quarter safety and got a 39-yard fumble recovery for a score from Kevin McCullough. A missed fake punt and a missed fourth down chance led to UC offensive scores with Greg Moore rushing for a one-yard score and Butler Brenton rushing for a 27-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. South Florida finally got on the board in the final minutes with an 11-yard Amp Hill touchdown catch.

East Carolina's best win ...
East Carolina 20 ... Southern Miss 17 OT
East Carolina's Travis Williams picked off a pass in the end zone in overtime after Ben Hartman nailed a 19-yard field goal on the Pirate's possession. In a defensive battle, East Carolina countered a nine-yard Ed Morgan touchdown catch with a kickoff return for a score from Chris Johnson. Tied at ten midway through the third, ECU was driving only to have Eddie Hicks pick off a pass and take it 87 yards for a touchdown. ECU was able to force overtime with a two-yard James Pinkney touchdown run with :13 to play to cap off a ten-play, 60-yard drive that took of 4:27.

East Carolina's worst loss ...
UAB 17 ... East Carolina 12
With just over a minute to play, East Carolina appeared to be on the way to a thrilling win as Chris Henry caught a James Pinkney pass and tore off up the middle of the field and on his way to the end zone, but UAB's Chris Felder stripped the ball at the four yard line and Will Evans recovered to save the game. Chris Williams came off the bench to throw two 12-yard touchdown passes, one to Norris Drinkard and one to Steven Brown, for a 17-6 Blazer lead late, but ECU came back on a one-yard touchdown catch from Davon Drew with 4:45 to play, got the ball back with just over two minutes to play, and had one last chance before the fumble.

East Carolina Bowl History (4-3)
2001 GMAC Marshall 64, ECU 61 2OT
2000 gallery
ECU 40, Texas Tech 27
1999 Mobile Alabama TCU 28, ECU 14
1995 Liberty ECU 19, Stanford 13
1994 Liberty Illinois 30, ECU 0
1991 Peach ECU 37, NC State 34
1978 Independence ECU 35, La Tech 13
South Florida Bowl History (0-1)
2005 Meineke Car Care NC State 14, USF 0