Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On Location: Rutgers 35, Syracuse 17


Down 14-0 at the end of the first quarter to Syracuse, Rutgers’ hopes of a bowl bid were looking as bleak as the rainy New Jersey sky.
But the resurgent Scarlet Knights settled down, started moving the ball, and forgot about the two big plays that burned them early.

Rutgers (4-5, 3-2 in Big East play) quickly capitalized when quarterback Mike Teel found Tiquan Underwood for a 5-yard TD pass with 9:29 remaining in the second quarter to make the score 14-7. With the Knights still trailing, Teel stepped up in veteran fashion, going 9-for-12 after an early interception, and connected with Kenny Britt for a 16-yard touchdown with 4:54 to go in the half.

“We were down 14-0 and not a lot of good things were happening,” head coach Greg Schiano said. “We had a lot to overcome. We didn’t feel like today was particularly our day. We just needed to keep going.

“What happens to football players and coaches is you get a little anxious. There is no play that scores 14 points; you can only go one-at-a-time. We needed to do that, it’s a long game, so it’s easy to lose sight of that when you fall behind.”

After Britt’s score, Rutgers now had a clean slate with the game knotted at 14 and momentum now on their side.

The Knights’ defense held Curtis Brinkley to 8 yards on five carries in the first half, and eventually snapped his streak of five straight 100-yard rushing games.
Other than the two early plays for the Orange – an 82-yard touchdown run by Doug Houge, and a Da’Mon Merkerson recovery of a blocked punt in the end zone – Syracuse (2-7, 1-4 in Big East play) found themselves limited to 168 total yards, with only 35 coming via the passing game. Brinkley ended his day with 67 yards on 18 carries, while quarterback Cameron Dantley went 3-of-12 passing for 19 yards before leaving in the third quarter due to a leg injury.

Mission accomplished for the Knights’ defense.

Early in the third quarter, defensive back Zaire Kitchen sacked Dantley and forced a fumble for the second week in a row. After a Ryan D’Imperio recovery, the offense, which still had some unfinished business, went right to work.

Teel, who ended his day 26-for-36 throwing the football, with 276 yards through the air, hit Dennis Campbell to give the Knights the ball at the 1-yard line. After the great field position Kordell Young, who was named Big East Offensive player of the Week after finishing with 143-yards rushing, punched it in for the go-ahead score as Rutgers went up 21-14.

“I was happy today that we ran the football better,” Schiano said. “There were times in that game… the ball was wet, it was raining pretty hard, the wet football just scares you out of doing some things. So the fact that we were able to run it better is a positive.”

Joe Martinek sealed the deal for Rutgers when he lined up in – what would a football game be these days without it – Wildcat formation and took the direct snap 45-yards down the sideline, increasing the lead to 28-14.

After another Teel-to-Underwood connection in the fourth quarter made the score 35-17, the Knights were thinking about South Florida, not only for the climate change, but as their next opponent.

Photo Credit: Tom Ciszak, Rutgers Athletics