The Orangemen (2-6, 1-3 Big East) ended a four-game losing streak and beat a Division I-A team for the first time this season. Their only other victory came against I-AA Rhode Island.
Rutgers (1-7, 0-4) got a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, but the Scarlet Knights still have lost 26 of their last 27 conference games.
The lone victory was three years ago over Syracuse, and that outcome gave the Scarlet Knights hope coming in. But they lost four fumbles, never found any offensive rhythm and couldn't force a turnover.
Rutgers did throw a scare into the Orangemen early. Syracuse got a big break on the second play from scrimmage when Rutgers quarterback Ryan Cubit fumbled while backpedaling, and Syracuse's Louis Gachelin recovered at the Scarlet Knights 20.
Syracuse seemed poised to score quickly after Nunes hit fullback Chris Davis for a 13-yard pass, but Walter Reyes was stopped on second-and-goal from the 1, and Nunes threw an incompletion on third down.
The Orangemen tried a field goal instead of going for the score, and the strategy backfired. Nathan Jones blocked Collin Barber's kick, and the ball landed in the hands of Brandon Haw, who ran 90 yards untouched down the right side for a touchdown.
Syracuse then reeled off 24 straight points to take control. Nunes, making his first start of the season, hit key third-down passes of 13 yards to Johnnie Morant and 11 yards to Jamel Riddle to keep a 59-yard drive alive. Rhodes finished it, taking a short dump pass from Nunes and scoring from the 5 with 2:40 left in the first period to tie it at 7-7.
Defensive end Josh Thomas forced and recovered a fumble by Cubit on the second play after the kickoff, giving the Orangemen the ball at the Rutgers 28. Cubit got hurt on the play and was replaced by Ted Trump.
This time Nunes took advantage, hitting Riddle with a 30-yard touchdown pass in the left corner of the end zone on third-and-12 with just over a minute left in the period.
Nunes was 13-for-23 for 117 yards before leaving in the fourth quarter.
After Ryan Sands missed a 39-yard field-goal attempt for Rutgers, Reyes scored on a 79-yard run, giving Syracuse a 21-7 lead with 9:20 left in the half.
Linebacker Rich Scanlon forced and recovered a fumble by Trump to set up Barber's 33-yard field goal with 5:12 left in the third to give the Orangemen a 24-7 lead.
Rutgers received a big boost from Jones, who returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to make it 24-14. Jones also returned a kickoff 100 yards against Tennessee.
But the Syracuse defense, burned in the fourth quarter in three of the Orangemen's losses, clamped down. After another sack by Scanlon forced the Scarlet Knights to punt, Keeon Walker blocked the kick, and Rhodes picked up the ball and scored from the 3 with 14:17 left.
Latroy Oliver intercepted a pass by Trump to set up Reyes' 2-yard TD run just over two minutes later, and Rhodes finished the rout with a 5-yard scoring run.
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Score ----------------- -- -- -- -- ----- Rutgers............. 7 0 7 0 - 14 Syracuse............ 14 7 3 21 - 45