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USF shocks Auburn

The Bulls tie it during the final minute on a field goal then get Jessie Hester's TD.

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published September 9, 2007


AUBURN, Ala. - Who needs field goals when you have Matt Grothe?

The Bulls quarterback threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jessie Hester in overtime, giving USF a wild 26-23 upset over No. 17 Auburn on Saturday night.

Grothe converted a fourth-and-1 in overtime, then found Hester wide-open to give the Bulls their third win against a ranked team in as many years.

Auburn went first in the initial overtime, but could gain only 2 yards, settling for a 40-yard field goal by Wes Byrum for a 23-20 lead.

USF entered the game 5-0 all-time in overtime games, most recently a double-overtime win against TCU in 2004.

USF forced five turnovers but could not convert them into a single point because of on four missed field goals by Delbert Alvarado. The Bulls' offense was to blame too, getting six plays inside the Auburn 10 in the final eight minutes with only three points to show for it.

Brandon Cox completed four consecutive passes for 51 yards to set up a 46-yard field goal by Wes Byrum, a line-drive shot that split the uprights for a 20-17 lead.

Jerome Murphy's 49-yard kickoff return and Grothe's 18-yard pass to Taurus Johnson helped the Bulls get in position for a tying 19-yard field goal from Alvarado with 55 seconds left.

Playing before its second-largest crowd ever, USF jumped out to a 14-3 lead, getting long runs from Matt Grothe and Mike Ford to set up short touchdown runs by each. The Bulls outgained the Tigers 146-60 in the first quarter but couldn't keep themomentum.

Auburn opened the second quarter with a 29-yard pass that set up Mario Fannin's 4-yard touchdown run. All but one play in the second quarter took place in USF's half of the field. But the Bulls were able to hold the lead with help from safety Nate Allen's interception of Brandon Cox in the end zone.

Facing fourth and 4 from the USF 31 with 2:34 left in the half, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville went for it, getting an 8-yard gain on a screen pass to Robert Dunn.

Two plays after a 15-yard run by Fannin put Auburn at the USF 3, Cox found 6-foot-4 tight end Gabe McKenzie in the back of the end zone for a 17-14 lead with 29 seconds left in the half. Auburn outgained the Bulls 126-23 in the second quarter.

Auburn, at the USF 45, went for it again on fourth down on the first drive of the second half. But needing 1 yard, Cox fumbled at the line of scrimmage, and the loose ball was recovered by Allen.

Allen later forced a third turnover, knocking the ball from Fannin, who fumbled on consecutive carries to set USF up inside the Auburn 25.

USF kept Auburn's defense off-balance with a variety of offensive looks, including a five-receiver set and three-back, two-tight end package during the same drive. USF even utilized a shifted offensive line that saw both tackles lined up on one side and a tight end at the opposite tackle.

USF entered with a rough history against SEC opponents, having lost all four meetings by an average score of 36-8.

The Bulls also were 2-9 against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, though their lone road victory was in their last attempt, the 2006 regular-season finale at No. 9 West Virginia.USF now has an early bye week before returning to face another BCS conference team.North Carolina comes to Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 22.

Fast facts

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vs. North Carolina, Sept. 22, TBA, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa.TV/radio: TBA