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Rice Leads Rutgers Past USF in BIG EAST Opener, 22-20
  • Posted on September 30, 2006 12:03:00 AM
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  • TAMPA, FL - Sophomore running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Ray Rice (New Rochelle, N.Y.) rushed for 202 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead No. 23 Rutgers to its first 5-0 start since 1976 with a 22-20 victory over USF at Raymond James Stadium Friday night.

    Rice's outstanding performance helped anchor a solid Rutgers ground attack as he tied a pair of RU's longest standing rushing marks. Rice tied "JJ" Jennings' (1972-73) school record with seven-straight games of 100 rushing yards or more and his 202-yard performance marked his third 200-yard game, tying the school record also set by "JJ" Jennings.  It was the 10th time in 17 career games that Rice has rushed for at least 100 yards.

    Rice's two rushing touchdowns gave him 11 on the season, tying him with teammate and fellow Heisman Trophy candidate Brian Leonard (Gouverneur, N.Y.) (2005) for seventh place on the school's single-season rushing TD list. Rice's 35 carries on the night were also a career high, surpassing his previous total of 31 in RU's season opener at North Carolina (9/2).

    Rutgers Celebration
    Photo by Todd Drexler

    The Scarlet Knights orchestrated a 12-play, 79-yard scoring drive to open the contest, capped by a three-yard run by Rice – his 10th touchdown of the season. Rice tallied 36 yards on seven carries during the drive while QB Mike Teel (Oakland, N.J.) was a perfect 3-for-3 for 29 yards.

    After senior punter Joe Radigan (Hoboken, N.J.) pinned USF on its own 10-yard line the Rutgers defense held the Bulls in check and an 18-yard punt by USF gave RU the ball back deep in Bulls territory at the 26 yard line. Teel and Rice went back to work to set up a 32-yard field goal by junior K Jeremy Ito (Loma Linda, CA) to make it 10-0 in favor of the Scarlet Knights with 6:45 remaining.

    USF snapped RU's momentum however, as QB Matt Grothe and the Bulls covered 80 yards on five plays to which the quarterback was responsible for every yard on the drive, including a one-yard TD run to make it 10-7 with 4:40 to play in the first half.

    On the first play of the ensuing Rutgers drive Teel's deep pass was intercepted by USF's Trae Williams – his fifth of the season. Grothe led the Bulls back to the endzone five plays later to give them their first lead of the contest.

    The second USF touchdown marked just the second time all season Rutgers was behind (7:09 in the first quarter of the Ohio game) as the Bulls headed into halftime with a 14-10 edge on the Scarlet Knights.

    Sophomore safety Courtney Greene (New Rochelle, N.Y.) halted USF's second half opening drive with his third interception in as many games. Rice made the Bulls pay on the first play with a 27-yard burst up the middle to go over 100 yards for the game – tying a school record with his seventh-straight 100-yard performance. Seven plays later Ito punched through his second field goal of the game, this time from 40 yards out to pull RU within a point at 14-13.

    The Rutgers defense stymied another USF drive late in the third quarter as junior safety Ron Girault (Spring Valley, N.Y.) came up with his eighth career interception. The Scarlet Knights once again capitalized on the turnover, marching 31 yards on seven plays with Rice capping the drive with a seven-yard scamper inside the left pylon to re-gain the lead for RU, 19-14, with 13:04 left to play. The Scarlet Knights' two-point conversion attempt failed.

    After the kickoff from Ito, Rutgers again stalled the Bulls' offense forcing them into a three-and-out situation. Four minutes into the fourth quarter with the Scarlet Knights holding a five-point edge, RU put together several run plays and took control of the game's pace. Rutgers eventually set up for the second-longest made field goal in school history as Ito converted on a career-long 53-yard field goal with 7:02 to play, putting RU up 22-14.

    USF appeared to be on a potential game-tying drive as the Bulls drove the ball 55 yards down field to within Rutgers' 25 yard line. The Scarlet Knights defense rose to the challenge again, this time forcing a turnover as junior linebacker Brandon Renkart (Piscataway, N.J.) delivered a crushing blow to Grothe and recovered the resulting fumble. Rutgers had an opportunity to make it a two-possession game but a 42-yard field goal attempt was blocked by a USF defender, giving the Bulls a second chance at evening the score.

    The Bulls got to within two points after a 66-yard drive culminated in a Grothe touchdown pass to make the score 22-20 in RU's favor. Facing a crucial two-point conversion opportunity, sophomore defensive back Jason McCourty (Nanuet, N.Y.) shut the door USF's attempt to upset the No. 23 Scarlet Knights as he deflected Grothe's pass on the conversion.

    With 15 seconds left on the game clock, USF set up for an onside-kick and successfully recovered the ball. Upon further review by the officials, it was later ruled that the Bulls defender had recovered the ball before it traveled the necessary 10 yards, giving RU the possession and the 22-20 victory.

    No. 23 Rutgers will be idle next weekend before returning to the road against Navy in Annapolis, Md., Saturday, Oct. 14 at 1:30 p.m.

    Team Notes

    With the 22-20 victory over USF, Rutgers is now 5-0 for the first time since 1976 and sixth time in school history the Scarlet Knights have started the season 5-0. The other five years RU started 5-0 were 1918, 1958, 1960, 1961 and 1976.

    Rutgers is now 5-1 in its last six true road games. (RU’s Insight Bowl contest against Arizona State was played on a neutral field.)

    The victory is Rutgers’ first in the state of Florida. The Scarlet Knights are now 1-7-1 all-time in the Sunshine State.

    Rutgers dominated the time of possession battle, holding a 14:32 (37:16 to 22:44) edge in the category.

    The Rutgers defense recorded a pair of interceptions (Courtney Greene and Ron Girault) giving them nine interceptions for the season. The Scarlet Knights have registered two interceptions in four of their five games this season.

    Sophomore RB Ray Rice’s (New Rochelle, N.Y.) three-yard TD run capped a 12-play, 79-yard opening scoring drive, marking the second time in as many games the Scarlet Knights scored on their opening drive of the game. 

    The 12-play 79-yard opening scoring drive lasted 7:14, the longest scoring drive (time of possession) of the season and tied for the most number of plays.

    The second USF touchdown of the game gave the Bulls a 14-10 lead, marking just the second time this season Rutgers trailed on the scoreboard.

    Player Notes

    Sophomore RB Ray Rice (New Rochelle, N.Y.) tied “JJ” Jennings’ (1972-73) school record with seven-straight games of 100 rushing yards or more. He finished with 202 yards on 35 carries against the Bulls. 

    Rice’s 202-yard performance marked his third 200-yard game, tying the school record set by “JJ” Jennings (1971-73)

    Rice’s 100-yard performance marked the 10th time in 17 career games he has achieved the feat. 

    Rice’s two rushing touchdowns give him 11 so far for the season tying him with teammate Brian Leonard (2005) for seventh place on the school’s single-season rushing TD list.

    Rice’s 35 carries is a career high, surpassing his previous total of 31 in the season opener at North Carolina (9/2).

    Sophomore S Courtney Greene (New Rochelle, N.Y.) picked off his third pass in as many games. Greene intercepted a Grothe pass in the third quarter. It is the third pick of his career.

    Junior K Jeremy Ito (Loma Linda, Cal.) converted a career-long 53-yard field goal with 7:02 to play to put RU up 22-14. The field goal is the second-longest field goal in school history, three-yards short of the school record of 55 yards set by John Benestad on Nov. 10, 1990 vs. West Virginia. The 53-yard field goal is one-yard longer than Ito’s previous career-long recorded against Arizona State in the Insight Bowl last year.

    With three field goals (32 and 40 and 53 yards), Ito moves into sole possession of second place on the Rutgers all-time field goals made list with 41 career field goals. Ito needs five more successful field goals to tie Kennan Startzell’s all-time record of 46 from 1976-79.

    Seniors Brian Leonard (Gouverneur, N.Y.) and Clark Harris (Manahawkin, N.J.) extended their receptions streaks against USF. Leonard finished with three catches, while Harris registered one reception. Leonard has caught at least one pass in 39-straight games, which ranks second in BIG EAST history (one behind WVU’s Khori Ivy from 1997-2000). Harris’ streak was extended to 35 games which moves him into sole possession of fourth place in league history (two behind third place Reggie Wayne from 1997-2000).

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