CHAMPAIGN, IL - Rutgers piled up 507 yards of total offense, but Illinois managed to erase a 20-point deficit to defeat the Scarlet Knights in overtime, 33-30, Saturday in Champaign.
Ryan Hart (Coral Springs, FL) led the Scarlet Knights with 342 yards on 27-44 passing, while Brian Leonard (Gouverneur, NY) led the Knights on the ground with 186 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. Unable to capitalize on several early chances, Rutgers still managed to get out to a 27-7 lead, but was unable to hold off the Illini charge, allowing four-straight scores in regulation to tie the score at 27 apiece.
Rutgers possessed the ball first in the overtime period, and Jeremy Ito (Redlands, CA) hit a 40-yard field goal to give the Scarlet Knights the 30-27 lead with the Illinois offensive possession still to come. Illinois quarterback Tim Brasic found EB Halsey on a screen pass that took the Illini down to the two-yard line, where Pierre Thomas punched it through the Rutgers defense for the game-winning score. Ito, who had a 43-yard attempt blocked in the fourth quarter, was 3-7 on the day for the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers got on the board first with a 21-yard field goal on their second drive of the game. Hart led Rutgers down to the Illini four-yard line, but the Scarlet Knights were unable to punch it into the end zone, and settled for the 3-0 lead on an Ito kick.
The Rutgers defense was stout in the early going, forcing a three-and-out on Illinois’ first drive, and following that up with an interception by Ron Girault (Spring Valley, NY) on the second Illini drive. With good field position, Rutgers was unable to capitalize, as Ito missed a 43-yard field goal into the wind.
Illinois wasted no time in taking a 7-3 lead, mounting an 11-play 74-yard drive in just 3:17 thanks to the no-huddle offense. The Rutgers offense responded quickly, however, as on the ensuing RU possession, Hart found wide receiver Marcus Daniels (Miami, FL) for a 55-yard strike down the left sideline for the score and a 10-7 lead.
Ito added another field goal on Rutgers’ next possession to extend the lead to 13-7. With the first half nearing completion, Joe Radigan (Hoboken, NJ) placed a punt out of bounds at the 12-yard line to pin the Illini deep in their own zone. After a holding call backed Illinois up to the seven-yard line, Rutgers freshman Courtney Greene (New Rochelle, NY) forced a fumble on a big hit which was recovered by Devraun Thompson (Piscataway, NJ) at the Illinois 19. Hart quickly took advantage of the defensive effort, hitting Leonard on a 19-yard strike down the left sideline for the touchdown on first down. Hart managed to escape the pursuit of the defensive end and found Leonard who beat the covering linebacker to the end zone for the 20-7 lead at the half.
A Doak Walker Award candidate, Leonard wowed the national TV audience with an acrobatic 83-yard touchdown run on Rutgers’ first possession of the second half. With Rutgers at their own 17-yard line, Leonard ran to the left side, turned the corner, and leaped over 6-1 defensive back Charles Bailey, turning on the jets and motoring down the sideline, outrunning the entire Illinois defense, beating out speedy defensive back Sharriff Abdullah to the end zone and the 27-7 lead. Leonard recorded his 16th-straight game of 100 all-purpose yards or more, dating back to the 2003 season.
With the Illini looking to make a comeback midway through the fourth quarter, Corey Barnes (Miami, FL) picked off his second pass of the game, but it was called back due to interference in the end zone. Illinois again took advantage, getting the touchdown pass from Brasic two plays later to close the gap to 27-20. After the blocked field goal, Illinois tied the game on a 13-yard pass from Brasic to Halsey, capping a nine-play, 65-yard drive.
The receiving tandem of Tres Moses (Delray Beach, FL) and Shawn Tucker (Parkland, FL) were impressive for RU. Tucker, in his first game back from injury that sidelined him for most of last season, caught six balls for 72 yards. Moses, a Biletnikoff Award candidate, caught five balls for a team leading 81 yards. Mackey and Lombardi Awards candidate Clark Harris (Manahawkin, NJ) caught six balls for 55 yards as well.
True freshman Ray Rice (New Rochelle, NY) showed his elusiveness and quickness out of the backfield, rushing for 55 yards on 12 carries.
With the 342-yard passing effort, Hart recorded his ninth career 300-yard game, moving into a tie for the most in BIG EAST history.
Rutgers will open its home schedule next Saturday, September 10, as the Scarlet Knights will welcome Villanova to Rutgers Stadium. The game is set for 3:30 pm.
First Time Starters
Seven Scarlet Knights made their first career starts this afternoon – three on offense and four on defense. On offense, sophomore Pedro Sosa (tackle), junior Darnell Stapleton (center) and tailback Ray Rice (freshman) earned their first starting assignments, while Eric Foster (defensive tackle), Ramel Meekins (defensive tackle), Courtney Greene (safety) and Corey Barnes (cornerback) made their first starts on defense. Hart, with his 27th start and Neill, with his 25th, are the current leaders on offense and defense.
The following nine players saw their first Division I-A collegiate action today vs. Illinois:
Glen Roy *
* - indicates true freshman status
Hart Moves Into Second on Rutgers Attempts, Yardage List
Ryan Hart moved into second place on the RU all-time passing attempts list, moving past Mike McMahon (1997-00), who finished his career with 974. Hart opened the game by completing his first seven passes. With a 17-yard completion to Shawn Tucker at the 4:55 mark of the third quarter, Hart passed McMahon (6,608 yards) to move into second place on the RU career list. Hart is chasing Scott Erney (1986-89) in both categories. Hart has now thrown for 200 or more yards in 11 of his last 12 games and 18 times in his career.
Hart Ties BIG EAST Record for 300-yard Games
Ryan Hart threw for 300 or more yards for the ninth-time in his career, tying a BIG EAST record held by Miami’s Ken Dorsey, WVU’s Marc Bulger and Miami’s Gino Toretta.
With his second catch of the afternoon, Shawn Tucker joined two fellow RU receivers in the 1,000-yard club. Tucker entered the game needing 13 career yards to join Tres Moses and Brian Leonard in the group. Tight end Clark Harris entered today’s game needing 62 yards to join the group as well.
Moses Moves into BIG EAST Top 10
With a 27-yard reception at the 8:40 mark of the first quarter, Tres Moses extended his catch streak to 23 games, moving him into a tie for 10th place on the BIG EAST list. The league record is 40, held by WVU's Khori Ivy (1997-00). In addition, Clark Harris extended his personal streak to 19 games with a 15-yard catch in the second quarter.
Leonard Breaks 83 Yard Run to Extend All-Purpose Streak to 16 Games
With an 83-yard touchdown run to open the second-half scoring, Brian Leonard moved over the 100-yard mark in all-purpose yardage for the 16th-straight game. Leonard’s run is also tied for the fifth-longest in school history (Bill Tully, 9/24/60 vs. Princeton) and is the longest since Chad Bosch scampered 90 yards on 10/26/90 vs. Temple to set the school mark. It represents the second-straight game in which Rutgers has recorded a play of 80 yards or more, as Tres Moses hauled in an 87-yard pass in the 2004 season finale vs. Connecticut (11/25).
Neill Picks Up Where He Left Off
After leading the team in sacks last season (8.0) and anchoring a defensive line that led the BIG EAST with 31, senior DE Ryan Neill recorded a sack on Illinois’ first play from scrimmage – for a loss of seven yards. The sack was also the 10th of Neill’s career.
Marcus Daniels’ 55-yard TD catch was the third TD of his career and his longest career reception … Corey Barnes’ INT was the first of his career … RU has registered at least one sack in 22 of its last 23 games and multiple sacks in 13 of its last 14 … The last time Rutgers played turnover-free football was 11/15/03 vs. Boston College … Leonard surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark in a game for the fifth time in his career … Tucker’s five catches are the most since he caught six passes at Miami on 11/22/03.
Scoring Summary (Final) Rutgers (0-1) vs. Illinois (1-0) Date: Sep 03, 2005 Site: Champaign, Ill. Stadium: Memorial Stadium Attendance: 50112 Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 OT [ 5 ] Score ----------------- -- -- -- -- -- [ - ] ----- Rutgers............. 3 17 7 0 3 [ 0 ] - 30 Illinois............ 7 0 3 17 6 [ 6 ] - 33 Scoring Summary: 1st 07:24 RUTGERS - ITO, Jeremy 21 yd field goal 6 plays, 43 yards, TOP 1:23, RUTGERS 3 - ILL 0 00:40 ILL - Ellis, Jody 6 yd pass from Brasic, Tim (Reda, Jason kick) 11 plays, 74 yards, TOP 3:17, RUTGERS 3 - ILL 7 2nd 14:09 RUTGERS - DANIELS, Marcus 55 yd pass from HART, Ryan (ITO, Jeremy kick) 4 plays, 80 yards, TOP 1:31, RUTGERS 10 - ILL 7 09:20 RUTGERS - ITO, Jeremy 25 yd field goal 8 plays, 59 yards, TOP 3:01, RUTGERS 13 - ILL 7 01:09 RUTGERS - LEONARD, Brian 19 yd pass from HART, Ryan (ITO, Jeremy kick) 1 play, 19 yards, TOP 0:06, RUTGERS 20 - ILL 7 3rd 10:49 RUTGERS - LEONARD, Brian 83 yd run (ITO, Jeremy kick) 2 plays, 89 yards, TOP 0:46, RUTGERS 27 - ILL 7 07:03 ILL - Reda, Jason 28 yd field goal 9 plays, 69 yards, TOP 3:46, RUTGERS 27 - ILL 10 4th 11:54 ILL - Reda, Jason 32 yd field goal 10 plays, 55 yards, TOP 3:11, RUTGERS 27 - ILL 13 08:40 ILL - Jones, Kendrick 6 yd pass from Brasic, Tim (Reda, Jason kick) 4 plays, 54 yards, TOP 1:28, RUTGERS 27 - ILL 20 01:13 ILL - Halsey, E.B. 13 yd pass from Brasic, Tim (Reda, Jason kick) 9 plays, 65 yards, TOP 2:41, RUTGERS 27 - ILL 27 OT 15:00 RUTGERS - ITO, Jeremy 40 yd field goal 5 plays, 0 yards, TOP 0:00, RUTGERS 30 - ILL 27 15:00 ILL - Thomas, Pierre 2 yd run 3 plays, 25 yards, TOP 0:00, RUTGERS 30 - ILL 33 Kickoff time: 11:05 am End of Game: 2:55 pm Total elapsed time: 3:50 Officials: Referee: Dennis Hennigan; Umpire: Paul King; Linesman: Tom Considine; Line judge: Hugh Campbell; Back judge: Gary Dancewicz; Field judge: Richard Street; Side judge: Howard Curry; Temperature: 76 deg. Wind: N 5 mph Weather: Sunny ;