PISCATAWAY, N.J. &
South Florida flopped and No. 2 is up for grabs again.
Done in by Rutgers special teams tricks, the Bulls became the third second-ranked team to lose in the last three weeks, falling 30-27 to the Scarlet Knights on Thursday night.
USF (6-1, 1-1 Big East) had its eight-game winning streak come to an end, no doubt to the delight of Boston College, LSU, Oklahoma and the rest of the teams hoping to grab the second spot in the BCS standings USF held this week.
After reaching the rankings for first time in the 11-year history of South Florida football earlier this season, the Bulls shot up the charts behind a quick and hard-hitting defense and quarterback Matt Grothe's dynamic playmaking.
Against Rutgers, the Bulls' defense got thumped. Ray Rice ran for 181 yards on 39 carries and the Scarlet Knights scored more points than any opponent had this season against USF.
Grothe was good, passing for 247 yards and a touchdown and running for another score, but he also took a pounding. Rutgers sacked him seven times and preserved a three-point lead with two late defensive stands.
"I thought the defense played hard all night," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "We made some mistakes, against a good football team like South Florida, they're going to find those mistakes immediately. But the kids played incredibly hard."
A week after No. 2 California lost to Oregon State and two weeks after then-No. 2 Southern California was upset by Stanford, the Bulls became the 11th top-10 team to fall to an unranked opponent this season. There are five undefeated teams left in major college football.
In this topsy-turvy season, the Bulls' national title hopes can't quite be put to rest. But they took a major hit.
"We talk about adversity all the time and this is another part of (dealing with) adversity," Bulls linebacker Brouce Mompremier said. "It will show what type of team we have. It will show the true friends we have. We're not worried about the ranking and all that."
Third-string quarterback Andrew DePaola threw a 15-yard touchdown pass off a fake field goal to give the Scarlet Knights (5-2, 2-1 Big East) the lead in the third quarter and Rutgers also used a fake punt to set up an early field goal.
Mike Teel threw also two touchdown passes to Tiquan Underwood for Rutgers.
"Personally, rankings don't mean that much when you're on the field," Bulls receiver Marcus Edwards said. "All that stuff goes out the window. It comes down to who scores the most points and they scored more than we did tonight."
Rutgers, which started the season ranked 16th but fell out after two straight losses last month, might not be unranked much longer.
Jeremy Ito lined a 51-yard field with 11:59 left in the fourth quarter to give Rutgers a 30-20 lead.
Grothe's gang wasn't done. He led the Bulls on a 70-yard touchdown drive that Mike Ford capped with a 1-yard run with 9:16 left to make it 30-27.
When USF linebacker Ben Moffitt recovered Rice's fumble near midfield with 4:11 left, the Bulls were in business at the Rutgers 40. But Brandon Renkart sacked Grothe on the first play, and the Bulls were forced to punt.
"We had the ball at the 50, down by three and their defense came up to play," USF coach Jim Leavitt said. "Give them credit. Give them a lot of credit. They did it twice."
Rutgers was unable to kill the clock and the Bulls got one more shot to keep their perfect season alive, starting at the Rutgers 49.
On the first play, freshman Joe Lefeged came on a safety blitz and sacked Grothe from the blind side. On fourth-and-22, Amarri Jackson caught a pass down the sideline beyond the first down marker, but the play was wiped out by an offensive pass interference call because the receiver pushed off.
The last gasp came on a fourth-and-37 from the Rutgers 24. Grothe heaved a desperation pass into traffic and Rutgers defensive back Zaire Kitchen intercepted.
For the second straight season Rutgers came up with a huge victory on a Thursday night at home. Last year it was then-No. — Louisville, at the time the highest ranked opponent Rutgers had ever beaten.
Not anymore. This win set off another party on the field, though not quite as wild as last year's.
"We just went out there and played our best football," Rice said.
USF hadn't allowed a runner to reach 100 yards in the 14 games since Rice went for 202 in the Scarlet Knights' 22-20 win last year. Rice had 94 at halftime Thursday night.
"I thought we had a chip on our shoulders tonight," Bulls cornerback Trae Williams said. "That we would prove something to the nation. That we are deserving of the ranking. Obviously, we didn't get it done tonight."
No. 2 USF unbeaten no more: Rutgers wins
PISCATAWAY, N.J. &