State falls to South Florida
By Bret Strelow
RALEIGH ó N.C. State punter Bradley Pierson chased a high snap into the end zone and fell on the ball for a safety.
Less than three minutes later, Wolfpack quarterback Harrison Beck spun around to pursue a mishandled shotgun snap. The ball rolled to rest at the 1-yard line, and Beck booted it through the end zone to give South Florida two more points.
With Matt Grothe directing USF’s offense, the Bulls didn’t need to explore other ways to score.
Grothe opened the game with 11 consecutive completions, and he accounted for 327 total yards while leading 13th-ranked South Florida to a 41-10 victory against N.C. State at Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday night.
“I think that quarterback is the best we’ve seen this year by far,” N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien said. “Their whole offense is pretty efficient at what they do. We’ve seen some spread, five-wideout stuff, but not with the speed and skill they have.”
In the first half alone, the Wolfpack (2-3) allowed 354 yards and gained only 63. Beck, starting for the first time this season, completed a total of nine passes in 32 attempts and tossed three interceptions.
Grothe orchestrated touchdown drives of 76 and 68 yards before he threw an incompletion. His first 11 passes netted 148 yards, and he finished with 259 yards on 29 attempts.
USF (5-0) started the game with an eight-play TD march, and Josh Czajkowski capped N.C. State’s first series with a 32-yard field goal.
The Bulls responded with another touchdown drive, and Grothe’s 9-yard pass to Carlt Mitchell started a stretch in which USF scored 21 consecutive points.
“They came out, they moved the football and we didn’t get to stop them,” Beck said. “When you get into a game like that, the beginning kind of looked like it was going to have to be a shootout. … There just comes a point where it got to be too much.”
The Bulls finished with a 245-26 advantage in rushing yards, and Grothe had nine carries for a team-leading 68 yards.
Beck completed 6 of 24 passes and threw all of his interceptions in second half. He fired an incompletion into triple coverage on a fourth-and-goal play from USF’s 2-yard line with N.C. State trailing 31-10 in the third quarter.
O’Brien said he has no idea if quarterback Russell Wilson, who has an injured shoulder, will return to the lineup and start against Boston College on Saturday. Beck had a protective wrap running from his left forearm to the knuckles on his left hand as he addressed reporters after the game.
“They told me not to tell you anything,” Beck said.