NASHVILLE, TN - Down 27-3 in the third quarter, Rutgers mounted an incredible comeback to defeat Vanderbilt, 37-34, Saturday night in Nashville. Junior Brian Leonard, returning to the lineup from injury, scored four touchdowns and senior Tres Moses caught 11 passes for 147 yards to lead the Scarlet Knights to their third victory of the season.
Junior quarterback Ryan Hart, who threw for over 300-yards in his second-straight game, was 31-of-40 for 344 yards two touchdowns and an interception.
The Commodores (1-4) jumped out to a 10-0 lead, converting a 33-yard field goal by Patrick Johnson on its first drive before Dominique Morris returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown on the Scarlet Knights' ensuing drive. On its next drive, Rutgers marched 57 yards on 11 plays, setting up a 35-yard field goal from freshman Jeremy Ito, which cut the lead to 10-3. Ryan Hart connected with Brian Leonard on a 12-yard pass and Clarence Pittman rushed for 21 yards to highlight the drive.
Starting at its own 44-yard line following a Rutgers punt to open the second quarter, VU drove 56 yards on six plays, highlighted by a 9-yard TD run from Jeff Jennings to extend its lead to 17-3 with 8:30 left in the first half.
Rutgers seemed poised for its first TD on the next drive as Leonard rushed for 11 yards and Hart hit Chris Baker on back-to-back 23 and 11-yard completions to push the Scarlet Knights to the Vanderbilt 22-yard line but a fumble ended the Scarlet Knight drive just inside the 20-yard line with just under 6:00 left in the second quarter. The Commodores tacked on a 44-yard FG at the end of the half to extend its lead once again, 20-3.
Vanderbilt added another touchdown on its first drive of the second half, going 80 yards on seven plays to take a 27-3 lead. A 16-yard catch by Brandon Smith opened the drive and an 11-yard pass from Jay Cutler to Erik Davis for 27 yards ended it six plays later.
The Scarlet Knights, however, answered with back-to-back touchdowns to cut the lead to 27-16 as Brian Leonard scored on runs of two and three yards in the third quarter. The Commodores then answered with a touchdown of its own and a 34-16 advantage.
Rutgers continued its comeback in the fourth quarter, as Hart hit Chris Baker with 19-yard pass at the 11:17 mark capping a 9-play, 60-yard drive and on Vanderbilt's next possession, Piana Lukabu forced a fumble that was scooped up by Devraun Thompson and returned 27 yards to the VU 9-yard line. Hart then hit Leonard for another TD, the running back's third of the game, to cut the lead to 34-29.
With 6:00 remaining, Rutgers marched 68 yards down the field in 11 plays for their final touchdown, a 1-yard run by Leonard with 1:11 remaining. The Scarlet Knights capped the scoring with a successful two-point conversion on a Hart-to-Baker pass.
Leonard, who returned to the lineup after sitting the Syracuse game with a bruised thigh, rushed for 50 yards and three touchdows. He also caught 9 passes for 64 yards and a touchdown.
The Scarlet Knights celebrate homecoming next Saturday, hosting Temple at 12:00 p.m.
Rutgers Posts Biggest Comeback in School History
According to data available, Rutgers’ 37-34 win tonight represented the largest comeback (24 points) in school history. Rutgers did rally from 21 points down in a 50-49 win over Virginia Tech in 1992 and from 20 points down in a 28-28 tie with Florida in 1985.
Zuttah Earns Start at Right Tackle
With incumbent starter Sameeh McDonald unavailable, freshman Jeremy Zuttah made his first career start at right tackle. While Zuttah is the first true freshman to start a game in 2004, three made starts a year ago, led by LB Devraun Thompson, who started the final four games of the season. Justise Hairston (2) and Sam Johnson (1) also earned starting assignments in 2003. Zuttah is the first true freshman to start on the offensive line under head coach Greg Schiano. He is also one of five true freshman to see action this season (Jean Beljour, Jeremy Ito, Ron Girault, Dimitri Linton)
A Tale of Two Halves for Defense
After allowing 117 rushing yards in the first half, Rutgers held Vanderbilt to just 19 rushing yards in the second half of play. The Scarlet Knights allowed 166 passing yards in the second half, but following a Vandy TD on the opening drive of the third quarter, the RU defense held the Commodores to just seven points, outscoring them 34-7 over the final 36:16 of the game.
Hart Moves to Sixth All-Time in TD Passes
With his 19-yard TD pass to Chris Baker in the fourth quarter, Ryan Hart moved into a tie for sixth place on the all-time TD list at Rutgers with 25, joining Bryan Fortay (1992-93) and Bert Kosup (1974, 76-77). Ray Lucas (1992-95), who served as the color analyst for tonight’s radio broadcast, owns the school record with 43 TD passes. Hart added a 9-yard TD strike to Brian Leonard and ended the night with 26.
Hart Goes over 300 Yards in Back-to-Back Games
Completing 31-of-40 passes (77.6%) of his passes for 344 yards, Ryan Hart threw for over 300 yards in back-to-back games for the second time in his career. He threw for 311 yards and three TD’s last week vs. Syracuse. Rutgers has 18, 300-yard efforts in its history, five by Hart. In the second half alone, Hart threw for 211 yards, completing 16-of-23 passes with 2 TD’s.
Leonard Back In Action
After missing last week’s game at Syracuse due to injury, Brian Leonard returned to the starting lineup tonight. He caught a 12-yard pass on Rutgers’ third drive, giving the Scarlet Knights their first, first down of the game. Leonard (15 carries, 50 yards; 9 catches, 64 yards) gained 114 all-purpose yards to keep his streak alive at nine consecutive games.
Leonard Breaks Century Mark in Points
With his 2-yard TD run in the third quarter, Brian Leonard reached the 100-point mark for his career. Leonard, with 20 TD’s and one two-point conversion, has 122 career points in just 16 career games. He is chasing Albert Smith for 10th place on the career list (156 point, 1982-85).
Moses Catch Streak Grows to 16
With an 8-yard reception with 3:24 left in the opening quarter, Tres Moses extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one catch to 16 games, dating back to the 2003 season opener. Moses set career highs for catches (10) and yards (109) on Oct. 2 at Syracuse and bested those numbers with 11 catches for 147 yards tonight. His 147 yards are the most since Shawn Tucker went for 186 yards on Oct. 18, 2003 vs. Pittsburgh.
Back-to-Back 100-Yard Games – First Time Since 1998
Tres Moses had 109 receiving yards vs. Syracuse last week and 147 tonight to become the first RU receiver since 1998 to go for 100 yards in back-to-back games. Bill Powell did it on Oct. 17 at Pittsburgh and Oct. 24 vs. Tulane in 1998 with 107 and 100 yards, respectively. He is also the fifth receiver in school history to accomplish the feat, joining Powell, Eric Young, Marco Battaglia and Reggie Funderburk. (One of Eric Young’s efforts was vs. Vanderbilt on Sept. 17, 1988, when he caught 13 passes for 171 yards)
Moses Breaks 1,000 Career Receiving Yards; 2,000-Yard All-Purpose Mark
Entering the game with 925 receiving yards, Tres Moses went over the 1,000-yard mark with a catch early in the third quarter. Eric Young is 10th on the career list with 1,380 yards. Moses also passed the 2,000-yard mark in all-purpose yards with his 29-yard catch midway through the third quarter. He finished the game with 2,056 all-purpose yards and, for the second-straight week, set career highs in catches (11) and yards (147). He also now has 1,072 career receiving yards.
Sack Streak Reaches 17 Games
Alfred Peterson’s third quarter sack of Jay Cutler (-11 yards) extends the Rutgers sack streak to 17 games, encompassing all 12 games in 2003 and the first five of 2004. Rutgers, thanks to a Ryan Neill sack, also has seven-straight multi-sack games dating back to the Nov. 15 of last season vs. Boston College. RU finished the game with four sacks for a total loss of 29 yards.
Rutgers Improves to 2-3 in the state of Tennessee
Tonight’s 39-34 win improves Rutgers record to 2-3 in the state of Tennessee and supplies the Scarlet Knights with their first win since beating the Vols, 17-13, in 1979. RU’s last trip resulted in a 35-14 loss to Tennessee during the 2002 season.
NCAAF FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL --- --- --- --- ----- RUTGERS 3 0 13 21 37 VANDERBILT 10 10 14 0 34 FINAL SCORING SUMMARY 1ST QUARTER: VANDERBILT - FG, PATRICK JOHNSON 33 YD, 6:46. VANDERBILT 3-0 VANDERBILT - TD, DOMINIQUE MORRIS 29 YD INTERCEPTION RETURN (PATRICK JOHNSON KICK), 8:27. VANDERBILT 10-0 RUTGERS - FG, JEREMY ITO 35 YD, 13:26. VANDERBILT 10-3 2ND QUARTER: VANDERBILT - TD, JEFF JENNINGS 9 YD RUN (PATRICK JOHNSON KICK), 6:30. VANDERBILT 17-3 VANDERBILT - FG, PATRICK JOHNSON 44 YD, 14:58. VANDERBILT 20-3 3RD QUARTER: VANDERBILT - TD, ERIK DAVIS 27 YD PASS FROM JAY CUTLER (PATRICK JOHNSON KICK), 3:44. VANDERBILT 27-3 RUTGERS - TD, BRIAN LEONARD RECOVERED BLOCKED PUNT IN END ZONE (JEREMY ITO KICK), 6:40. VANDERBILT 27-10 RUTGERS - TD, BRIAN LEONARD 3 YD RUN (PAT FAILED), 9:10. VANDERBILT 27-16 VANDERBILT - TD, JAY CUTLER 2 YD RUN (PATRICK JOHNSON KICK), 11:12. VANDERBILT 34-16 4TH QUARTER: RUTGERS - TD, CHRIS BAKER 19 YD PASS FROM RYAN HART (JEREMY ITO KICK), 3:43. VANDERBILT 34-23 RUTGERS - TD, BRIAN LEONARD 9 YD PASS FROM RYAN HART (TWO-POINT CONVERSION FAILED), 5:30. VANDERBILT 34-29 RUTGERS - TD, BRIAN LEONARD 1 YD RUN (RYAN HART PASS TO TRES MOSES FOR TWO-POINT CONVERSION), 13:49. RUTGERS 37-34