Grothe helps South Fla. upend Pitt, become bowl eligible

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Matt Grothe ran for one touchdown and threw for a second before limping off with a foot injury Saturday, helping South Florida become bowl eligible with a 22-12 victory over Pittsburgh.

Grothe scored on a 1-yard run in the second quarter and tossed a 46-yard TD pass to Amarfi Jackson in the second half after it looked like quarterback Tyler Palko might be ready to rally Pitt (6-3, 2-2 Big East) from an 11-point deficit.

South Florida (6-3, 2-2), which made its first-ever bowl appearance last season, rebounded from a poor offensive performance in a 23-6 road loss to Cincinnati, with Grothe outplaying the more heralded Palko.

The Bulls' freshman completed 8 of his first 9 passes and finished 19-of-25 for 180 yards with one score and two interceptions. He also led his team with 51 yards rushing on 12 attempts before hurting his right foot on his final carry.

There was no immediate announcement on the severity of the injury. Backup Pat Julmiste finished the game.

Palko, among the nation's leaders in passing efficiency, completed 11 of 23 passes for 159 yards and didn't get Pitt's high-powered offense into the end zone until Darrell Strong hauled in a 19-yard TD pass with 6:22 remaining.

South Florida, which also scored on receiver Taurus Johnson's 22-yard run, intercepted Palko three times and benefited from numerous other Pitt mistakes.

South Florida ran 42 plays to Pitt's 20 in the opening half, outgaining the Panthers 213 yards to 50 while building a 14-3 lead on Grothe's eighth rushing TD of the season.

Special teams also contributed to Pitt's woes. The Panthers gave South Florida excellent field position by sailing two kickoffs out of bounds, South Florida ran for first downs out of punt formation twice, and Pitt allowed two punt returns of more than 25 yards in the first half alone.

But South Florida was unable to put the game out of reach early because of four turnovers and a blocked field goal.

Amp Hill's fumble recovered by Pitt's Clint Session set up Conor Lee's 34-yard field goal that trimmed the Panthers' deficit to 14-6 with 6:37 remaining in the third quarter.

Grothe responded with his TD pass to Jackson. On the play, defender Mike Phillips ran out of one of his shoes at the Pitt 20.

After throwing three interceptions in his first eight games and none in his last 118 attempts, Palko threw three Saturday. He also was penalized for intentional grounding on a throw out of the end zone, giving South Florida a fourth-quarter safety that made the score 22-6.

Pitt was outgained 377 yards to 214.

Both teams were coming off disappointing losses followed by bye weeks that enabled them to get healthy for a stretch run including games against conference heavyweights Louisville and West Virginia.


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