FRESNO, Calif. (Aug. 29, 2013) – In its season-opener, the Rutgers football team dropped a hard-fought overtime game at Fresno State, 52-51, on Thursday night in Bulldog Stadium.
The Scarlet Knights were led by sophomore RB Paul James (Glassboro, N.J.), who had a career day with 182 yards on the ground. Nova threw for 348 yards and five touchdowns. Junior WR Brandon Coleman (Accokeek, Md.) to led the squad with 10 receptions and posted 105 yards receiving, while sophomore WR Leonte Carroo (Edison, N.J.) hauled in three touchdowns and amassed a team-high 124 receiving yards. Defensively, redshirt freshman linebacker Steve Longa (Saddle Brook, N.J.) led the team with nine tackles.
The Bulldogs got on the board first with a 10-play, 74-yard drive capped by a three-yard touchdown run by RB Josh Quezada.
The Scarlet Knights answered quickly with the help of true freshman Janarion Grant (Trilby, Fla.), who scampered 100 yards to pay dirt on his first-ever collegiate touch on the ensuing kickoff. The extra point by sophomore PK Kyle Federico (Ponte Vedra, Fla.) tied the game, 7-7, with 11:53 remaining in the opening quarter.
After holding Fresno State to a three-and-out, Rutgers took over possession. In a drive highlighted by a 28-yard pass and catch from Nova to Coleman, the Scarlet Knights posted three points as Federico nailed a 48-yarder field goal to give RU a 10-7 lead with 7:31 on the clock in the first.
Early in the second quarter, the Bulldogs drove the ball to the Rutgers 8-yard line before redshirt freshman DB Ian Thomas (Baltimore, Md.) intercepted Fresno State QB Derek Carr in the end zone.
The Scarlet Knights capitalized on the turnover with just two plays as Nova hit Carroo for a 69-yard scoring strike. RU took a 17-7 lead with 14:30 remaining in the half.
Rutgers held Fresno State to another three-and-out and forced the Bulldogs to punt. The Scarlet Knights took over at their own 42-yard line. With the help of another Nova-to-Coleman big play, this time for 23 yards through the air, RU got into field goal position and Federico put one through the posts from 29 yards out.
After recovering an RU muffed punt, Fresno State went 41 yards on nine plays and found the end zone at the 4:17 mark in the second quarter to cut Rutgers’ lead to 20-14.
The Bulldogs closed the half with an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to score with one second remaining on the clock to take a 21-20 lead into the break.
In its second possession of the second half, the Scarlet Knights regained the lead. A 65-yard run by James got Rutgers down to the Fresno State 5-yard line and set up an 18-yard field goal by Federico to give RU a 23-21 advantage with 9:48 on the clock in the third.
Fresno State got the ball back and drove 75 yards on 10 plays, ending with a touchdown pass from Carr to WR Josh Harper for an 11-yard score. FSU regained the lead, 28-23, with 7:43 left in the third stanza.
Late in the third, James was again the highlight for the Scarlet Knights. He tallied 69 yards, including a 55-yard burst, which led to a one-yard touchdown pass from Nova to Coleman. Rutgers went for the two point conversion, and was successful as Nova rushed in on a quarterback draw to give the Scarlet Knights a 31-28 lead with 40 seconds on the board in the third.
The Bulldogs scored first in the fourth, going 40 yards on three plays, finding the end zone to take a 35-31 lead with 11:08 to go in the game.
With 7:51 on the clock, Rutgers senior DB Lew Toler (New Castle, Del.) recovered a fumble by Fresno State RB Marteze Waller at the Bulldogs’ 33-yard line. Later, Rutgers had a fourth-and-three play from the Bulldogs’ 13-yard line. The Scarlet Knights elected to go for it, and Nova found Carroo in the corner of the end zone to give RU a 38-35 lead with 5:32 remaining.
The Bulldogs responded with a 47-yard field goal by Colin McGuire on the next possession with 3:48 on the clock, tying the game at 38-38.
With 1:18 remaining, Nova found Carroo for the third time in the corner of the end zone for a 30-yard score with 1:18 on the clock. The Bulldogs answered, tying the game at 45-45 with 38 seconds left.
RU drove down the field late, but missed the game-winning field goal wide right to send it to overtime.
On the first play of overtime, Fresno State’s Carr found WR Greg Watson for a touchdown, taking the 52-45 lead. RU answered as Nova found Coleman in the end zone for the second time on the night, leaving the score at 52-51. The Scarlet Knights attempted the two-point conversion, but were unsuccessful.
The Scarlet Knights are back in action in their home-opener against Norfolk State on Sept. 7 at noon in High Point Solutions Stadium. The first 5,000 children inside the stadium receive a free pencil pouch.
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- Today’s Captains: Brandon Coleman, Jamal Merrell, Jamil Merrell, Gary Nova
- Weather at Kickoff: 92 degrees, clear
- First Career Start: DT Darius Hamilton, DE Djwany Mera, LB Steve Longa, DB Gareef Glashen, DB Ian Thomas, OL Keith Lumpkin, WR Ruhann Peele
- Collegiate Debut: WR Janarion Grant, LB Steve Longa, DB Nadir Barnwell, DB Ian Thomas, LB Davon Jacobs, FB Kevin Marquez, OL Chris Muller, WR Ruhann Peele, WR Andre Patton
- August 29 marks the earliest start to a regular season in RU history.
- Rutgers is 0-2 all-time vs. Fresno State.
- The Scarlet Knights played their second game all-time in the state of California. The previous visit was a 21-7 setback at California in 1999.
- The 103 combined points were the most in an opener in Rutgers history.
- Rutgers played its first overtime game since the Russell Athletic Bowl against Virginia Tech on Dec. 28, 2012.
- Fresno State was Rutgers’ 150th different opponent when the two schools first met in 2008. This season, three first-time opponents are on the schedule (Eastern Michigan, SMU, Houston). The three first-time opponents in 2013 extends the all-time list to 160 different opponents in school history.
- Senior captain DE Jamil Merrell (Bear, Del.) was a game-time decision with a lower leg injury and was not able to play. It snapped a streak of 21 consecutive games played and 11 straight starts for the Delaware native.
- True freshman WR Janarion Grant (Trilby, Fla.) ran back a 100-yard kickoff return to score the first points of the season for Rutgers. It was the first KOR for the Scarlet Knights since DB Jeremy Deering (Tampa, Fla.) notched a 98-yard return against USF (Nov. 5, 2011).
Recent Rutgers Kickoff Returns
- 100 – Janarion Grant (Aug. 29, 2013 at Fresno State)
- 98 – Jeremy Deering (Nov. 5, 2011 vs. USF)
- 98 – Devin McCourty (Oct. 31, 2009 at Connecticut)
- 91 – Joe LeFeged (Dec. 5, 2009 vs. West Virginia)
- 35 – Damaso Munoz (Dec. 19, 2009 vs. UCF in St. Petersburg Bowl)
- First kickoff return for a touchdown on the road since Devin McCourty at Connecticut in 2009.
- It was the first time RU scored on its opening touch of the season since a 20-play drive to start the year against Cincinnati in 2009.
- The last Scarlet Knight to notch a 100-yard kickoff return for Rutgers was Nate Jones at Syracuse (Oct. 26, 2002).
- Last true freshman to score a touchdown for Rutgers prior to Grant was Savon Huggins (Jackson, N.J.) recorded a 1-yard rushing score at Louisville (Oct. 21, 2011).
- Junior QB Gary Nova (Elmwood Park, N.J.) threw for 193 yards in the first half, the most in an opening half in his career.
- Nova threw for 348 yards, eclipsing the 300-yard mark for the third time in his career. The 348 yards were the second most he has thrown for in a game. His career-best is 397 at Arkansas (Sept. 22, 2012).
- Nova threw five touchdown passes, tying his career high at Arkansas (Sept. 22, 2012).
- RU scored 20 points in the first half, the most in a road opener since racking up 20 at Illinois in 2005.
- Sophomore RB Paul James (Glassboro, N.J.) eclipsed the 100-yard marker for the first time in his career, running for 182 in the game. His previous high was 22 yards at Pittsburgh last season. James’ longest run of the night was a 65-yard scamper down the sideline in the third quarter, also a new career-best.
- Sophomore K Kyle Federico (Ponte Vedra, Fla.) tied a career-high with three successful field goals. He also had three field goals at USF last season.
- Nova converted a two-point conversion in the third quarter. It was the first one for Rutgers since Mohamed Sanu rushed for one against Norfolk State in 2010.
- Sophomore WR Leonte Carroo (Edison, N.J.) had a game-high three touchdown grabs.
- Junior WR Brandon Coleman (Accokeek, Md.) set a career-high with 10 receptions in the game.
- Coleman moved into a tie for second on RU’s career touchdown catches list with Mark Harrison, both at 18.