ORLANDO, Fla. (Nov. 21, 2013) – Despite strong special teams play, Rutgers suffered a 41-17 setback to UCF at Bright House Networks Stadium Thursday night. Sophomore RB Paul James (Glassboro, N.J.) and freshman WR Andre Patton (Wilmington, Del.) each scored touchdowns for Rutgers, while K Kyle Federico (Ponte Vedra, Fla.) kicked a field goal.
Special teams play was the highlight of the night for the Scarlet Knights, as freshman DB Anthony Cioffi (Springfield, N.J.) blocked a punt that was recovered by Patton for a score. RU also converted on a fake punt that junior FB Michael Burton (Long Valley, N.J.) took 38 yards on the ground. Defensively, sophomore DL Darius Hamilton (West Paterson, N.J.) tallied 2.5 sacks. On the offensive side of the ball, sophomore TE Tyler Kroft (Downingtown, Pa.) set a career-high with a game-best eight receptions.
UCF got on the opening possession of the game, going 69 yards on eight plays. QB Blake Bortles hit Breshad Perriman for a 4-yard scoring strike to take a 7-0 lead 4:12 into the game.
After Rutgers could not answer on the ensuing possession, the Knights took a 14-0 lead with 3:44 remaining in the opening quarter on a drive that was capped by a 12-yard touchdown run by UCF RB Storm Johnson.
The Knights opened up the scoring in the second quarter as well, using 14 plays and 7:12 off the clock to cover 86 yards, which led to another Johnson rushing touchdown. UCF led 21-0 with 8:58 left in the half.
The Scarlet Knights got their first points of the game on the next possession, highlighted by a fourth-and-10 fake punt from their own 41. Burton took a direct snap up the middle for a 38-yard scamper, putting RU on the UCF 21-yard line. On the next play, junior QB Gary Nova (Elmwood Park, N.J.) found junior WR Brandon Coleman (Accokeek, Md.) for a 21-yard pickup to the one-yard line. On fourth-and-goal, Rutgers went for it again, and James punched it in for his seventh touchdown of the season. Rutgers cut the lead to 21-7 with 5:59 on the clock in the second quarter.
Near the end of the half, UCF found the end zone again on a seven-yard run by Bortles. He rushed for 32 yards on the 11-play, 79-yard drive to give the Knights a 28-7 with 1:10 on the clock in the second quarter.
After alternating possessions, UCF got the ball back. Rutgers held the Knights to a three-and-out. The Scarlet Knights got a spark when UCF attempted to punt on fourth-and-17 from its own 34-yard line. Cioffi broke through and blocked the punt. The ball rolled into the end zone and was recovered by Patton to trim the UCF lead to 28-14 heading into the half.
In the second half, UCF got on the board first with a field goal at the 6:20 mark in the third quarter to take a 31-14 lead.
To start the final stanza, UCF found the end zone again on a one-yard William Stanback touchdown to cap a drive that was highlighted by a 48-yard pass from Bortles to Perriman. The Knights took a 38-14 lead over RU with 14:14 left in regulation.
A UCF and Federico field goal capped the scoring to make the final 41-17.
Rutgers will next continue on the road with a Nov. 30 contest at UConn. Kickoff on ESPNU is set for noon.
- DB Ruhann Peele made his second start of the season and first on the defensive side of the ball. He started at wide receiver at Fresno State.
- Today’s game marked the second meeting between Rutgers and UCF. RU won the previous meeting, 45-24, in the 2009 St. Petersburg Bowl. It will be the only conference meeting between the two programs.
- DB Anthony Cioffi blocked his first career punt in the second quarter that WR Andre Patton recovered for his first career touchdown. Rutgers now has 10 blocked punt returns for touchdowns over the last 10 years, most of any FBS team during that span. It was the 35th overall blocked kick for RU since 2009, also most in the nation. Rutgers has four blocks this season (two field goals, two punts).
- Cioffi was also involved in Rutgers’ other blocked punt this season against Norfolk State when he recovered the ball.
- UCF last allowed a blocked punt for a touchdown in 2003.
- Rutgers played its third Thursday road game of the season and second on a short week. It was RU’s 13th appearance on the ESPN primetime package overall. The Scarlet Knights have played only one Saturday road contest to this point.
- UCF entered the game No. 17/20 in the polls, marking the second ranked opponent for the Scarlet Knights this season (Oct. 10 at No. 8/8 Louisville). Rutgers last played two ranked teams on the road in 2002.
- After playing its first nine games on turf, Rutgers played its first game of the season on natural grass. The Scarlet Knights went 2-1 on grass last year.
- Fourteen members of the Rutgers roster are natives of Florida.
- Rutgers converted twice on fourth down during its first touchdown drive of the game and one in the fourth quarter, making the team 17-of-23 (73.9%) on the season. RU went 3-of-4 on the night.
- The defense collected five sacks in the game, the most this season since having six in the win over Eastern Michigan.
- FB Michael Burton rushed the ball 38 yards on a fake punt in the second quarter, the longest rush of his career. His previous best was a 24-yard run in the 2011 Pinstripe Bowl against Iowa State.
- RB Paul James scored his seventh touchdown of the season and first since the Eastern Michigan game. The last RU player to run for that many touchdowns in a year was Jawan Jamison (nine in 2011).
- DL Darius Hamilton registered a career-best 2.5 sacks on the night, most of any Scarlet Knight in a game this season. He had one career sack entering the game. He also registered his career high with eight tackles, beating the five he had on three previous occasions.
- LB Quentin Gause has three TFLs, the same amount he had versus Arkansas.
- TE Tyler Kroft brought in a career-high eight receptions in the game, besting his mark of six versus Arkansas earlier in the year.
- LB Steve Longa led the team with 10 tackles in the game. He has tied or led the team in stops seven times this season and has a team-best 93 tackles on the year.
- QB Gary Nova attempted 34 passes on the game to move his career total to 918, fifth-most in school history.
- Four of P Nick Marsh’s five punts were fair caught, with one going over 50 yards and another pinned inside the 20. He now has 20 punts downed inside the 20 this season.