USF Wins Inaugural St. Petersburg Bowl
by Mike Mitchell
December 20, 2008
USF outscored Memphis 17-0 in the second half to pull away for a 41-14 win in the inaugural St. Petersburg Bowl.
It was almost a home game for the Bulls as it was played across the bridge from their Tampa campus. USF plays its home games at Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But this game was staged at Tropicana Field, the indoor park of Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Rays.
The Bulls opened a 14-0 lead with touchdowns on two of its first three possessions. Though the Tigers cut the deficit to 14-7, USF was never really threatened.
Behind a 236-yard, 3-TD passing performance from junior QB Matt Grothe, the Bulls stretched the lead to 24-7 at halftime and 34-7 after three quarters. Grothe added 82 yards rushing and watched the final 17 minutes of the game from the bench after joining West Virginia QB Pat White as the Big East's only players to surpass 10,000 yards in total offense. White, whose Mountaineers will face North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on December 27, has 10,142 yards in 49 games while Grothe has 10,214 in 39 games.
USF improved its bowl record to 2-2 after becoming a FBS team in 2001. It has made the postseason in each of its four years of membership in the Big East. After playing as an independent in 2001 and 2002, the Bulls played in CUSA from 2003-2004. The school began its football program in 1997 as a 1-AA (FCS) Independent. Jim Leavitt has served as its only head coach for all 12 years and is 87-52 overall, 59-35 in the FBS.
Memphis dropped to 3-3 in bowl games, and concluded the season below .500 at 6-7. Tiger running back Curtis Steele entered the game with 1,175 yards and seven 100-yard rushing games, but was held to just 48 yards on 12 carries by the USF defense.
For the game, the Bulls outgained Memphis 496 yards to 239.