PISCATAWAY, N.J. - (October 13, 2012) A smothering defensive effort coupled with key plays on special teams propelled the Rutgers football team (6-0, 3-0) to a 23-15 victory over Syracuse on Saturday afternoon at High Point Solutions Stadium. Senior linebacker Khaseem Greene (Elizabeth, N.J.) sparked the Scarlet Knights defense, recording 14 tackles — including two for a loss — 1.5 sacks, an interception and three forced fumbles.
RU also took advantage on special teams, as junior Duron Harmon (Magnolia, Del.) returned a blocked field goal by sophomore Jamal Merrell (Bear, Del.) 75 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter.
“It was certainly a really exciting game for us and we’re happy to have come out on top,” said head coach Kyle Flood. “The game changed significantly in the second half when we blocked the field goal and scored a touchdown. I thought the staff as a whole did a tremendous job of working with each other and understanding what kind of game we were in at that point.”
With the victory, the Scarlet Knights improve to 6-0 for only the fifth time in the history of the program. Flood is the first head coach to guide the program to a 6-0 start in his first season. The win also makes RU bowl eligible for the seventh time in the past eight seasons.
Sophomore quarterback Gary Nova (Elmwood Park, N.J.) turned in a solid performance through the air, throwing for 152 yards and a touchdown on 14-of-23 passing. Redshirt freshman Brandon Coleman (Accokeek, Md.) hauled in six catches for 104 yards, as the wide out eclipsed the 100-yard mark for only the second time in his career. Sophomore running back Jawan Jamison (Stark, Fla.) ran for 68 yards on 28 carries and scored his third touchdown of the season.
Senior cornerback Brandon Jones (Sicklerville, N.J.) iced the victory with an interception deep in SU territory at the 2:45 mark — the fourth RU takeaway of the contest.
“If you win the turnover margin you have a great opportunity to win,” Flood said. “The more you win the turnover margin, the more opportunities you’re going to have to win football games. It’s one of those statistics that has been proven over time to win football games.”
The Orange added a touchdown and converted a two-point conversion with 4:19 minutes remaining in the game to pull within eight points of RU. But the touchdown was to no avail, as the defense held off the Syracuse passing attack to seal the team’s third BIG EAST conference win.
Redshirt freshman Tyler Kroft (Downingtown, Pa.) scored his first career touchdown with 14 minutes remaining in the game off a 12-yard pass from Nova to give the Scarlet Knights a 23-7 lead. RU capitalized on a strip by Greene that sophomore Kevin Snyder (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) recovered on the SU 14-yard line following a Scarlet Knights punt. Greene followed up the forced fumble with his second interception of the season.
The Scarlet Knights struck first in the second half, taking a 14-7 lead off a 75-yard touchdown return by Harmon. Merrell blocked a SU 32-yard field goal attempt by Ross Krautman to set up the score. Merrell snuck around the right side on the snap to get a hand on the kick, which was recovered by Harmon and returned up the right sideline.
On Syracuse’s next drive, the defense capitalized on a sack and forced fumble by seniors Greene and Scott Vallone (Central Islip, N.Y.) to regain possession on the RU 49-yard line. The offense marched to the eight-yard line behind seven rushes and 27 yards from Jamison, allowing freshman Nick Borgese (Hamburg, N.Y.) to knock in a 25-yard field goal and give RU a 17-7 lead with 3:50 remaining in the third quarter.
The Scarlet Knights entered halftime with the score knotted at 7-7. The Orange capitalized on their final drive of the half, which started on their own 20-yard line, to tie the score with 1:32 remaining in the second quarter.
Syracuse’s Adonis Ameen-Moore closed the 12-play, 5:01 minute drive with a three-yard touchdown scamper to even the score. A 16-yard run by Jerome Smith from the RU 21 on third down and one set up the touchdown strike. Prior to the score, RU’s defense made critical plays to stall Syracuse’s offensive drives, including two sacks and a forced fumble.
The Orange got to work quickly on offense following a three-and-out on RU’s first drive of the game. Ryan Nassib completed a 44-yard pass to Marcus Sales down the middle of the field on Syracuse’s second offensive snap, moving the Orange into RU territory. A SU holding penalty followed by a Ka’Lial Glaud (Sicklerville, N.J.) sack pushed the Orange back across midfield, forcing them to punt it away at the9:47 mark.
On the Scarlet Knights’ first play after the punt, Nova found a fading Coleman along the left sideline for a 27-yard gain. The completion would go on to spark a 10-play, 66-yard RU touchdown drive, capped by a one-yard touchdown run by Jamison. Another Nova-Coleman connection, this time for 43 yards, set the Scarlet Knights up for the score, giving RU a 7-0 lead with 4:52 remaining in the first quarter.
Syracuse again moved into RU territory to start the second quarter, but a sack and forced fumble from Greene pushed the Orange back to the 38-yard line. SU turned the ball over two plays later on a missed 50-yard field goal attempt.
The Scarlet Knights hit the road next weekend to square off with Temple in Philadelphia on Sat. Oct. 20 at noon.
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• No. 19/20 Rutgers (6-0, 3-0 BIG EAST) defeated Syracuse (2-4, 1-1 BIG EAST) 23-15 Saturday afternoon to improve to 6-0 on the season. RU is 6-0 for the first time since 2006 and just the third time since 1976.
• Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood became the first RU head coach in school history to start his career 6-0. He is the only first-time head coach in the nation this season to begin the year 6-0.
• Rutgers is 6-0 for just the fifth time in 143 years of college football.
• Rutgers has won six of the last eight meetings vs. the Orange.
• The Scarlet Knights won their first game as a Top 20 team since 2007 with today’s 23-15 victory.
• Rutgers is 3-0 in the BIG EAST for the second time since conference play began in 1991. RU also started 3-0 in 2006.
• Rutgers has outscored its opponents 48-3 in the third quarter of games in 2012. RU outscored the Orange 10-0 in today’s game, including a game-changing 75-yard blocked field goal return for a touchdown by Duron Harmon (Magnolia, Del.).
• Senior linebacker Khaseem Greene (Elizabeth, N.J.) tied a season-high with 14 tackles to lead a stingy Rutgers defense. Greene, the 2011 Co-BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year, finished with a career-high threeforced fumbles. He also totaled 1.5 sacks and his second interception of the season against the Orange.
• Greene is now eighth in school history with 314 career tackles. He moved past Tim Blanchard (1975-78) in the career top 10 today.
• Syracuse was held to 62 yards rushing as Rutgers held its seventh straight opponent to less than 100 yards on the ground.
• The Scarlet Knights forced four turnovers and did not have a giveaway in the win over the Orange. Entering the game, Rutgers was seventh nationally in turnover margin while Syracuse was 109th in the same category.
• Rutgers has forced a turnover in nine consecutive games, totaling 22 takeaways over the nine-game stretch. RU has forced a turnover in 46 of the previous 50 games dating back to the 2008 season.
• Rutgers’ defense held Syracuse to 1-of-4 scoring in the red zone, including a key goal line stand in the fourth quarter.
• Senior defensive end Marvin Booker (Piscataway, N.J.) tied a career-high with three tackles.
• Sophomore wide receiver Brandon Coleman (Accokeek, Md.) tied a career-high with six receptions for 104 yards. It marked the second 100-yard receiving game of his career.
• Redshirt freshman tight end Tyler Kroft (Downingtown, Pa.) caught two passes for 17 yards, including his first career touchdown on a 12-yard pass from Gary Nova (Elmwood Park, N.J.).
• Gary Nova has thrown 153 straight passes without throwing an interception. Nova has 11 touchdown passes and just two interceptions on the season.