Saturday, September 30, 2006

RU Escapes Big East Opener vs. USF
Comes Away 22-20 Victor

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No. 23 Rutgers squeeked past South Florida in both teams’ Big East opener Friday night by a score of 22-20. Ray Rice rushed for 202 yards and scored two TDs to help the Scarlet Knights remain undefeated. Jeremy Ito kicked field goals of 32, 40 and 53 yards.

South Florida failed on a two-point conversion that would have tied the score with just 15 seconds left in the game.

The Scarlet Knights squandered a golden opportunity late in the fist half. RU led 7-0 at the time and had South Florida pinned deep in their own end. Forced to punt from their own 8-yard line, the ball went out of bounds on the USF 26 after traveling just 18 yards. RU could not score a touchdown despite the great field position and had to settle for a 32-yard Jeremy Ito field goal with just 6:45 on the clock.

Matt Grothe then rallied the USF Bulls to two quick TDs on drives of 80 and 70 yards that required just 2:05 and 1:40 respectively and gave the Bulls a 14-10 lead going into the half.

Grothe almost pulled it out for the Bulls when, after a blocked RU field goal attempt with 2:32 remaining in the game, he led his team on a 66-yard scoring drive to make the score 22-20. Unfortunately for him, the two-point conversion attempt failed and the Bulls came up short.

Rutgers dominated the time of possession with a 37:16 to 22:44 edge.

Rice rushed for over 100 yards for the seventh straight game tying “JJ” Jennings mark set in 1972-73.

Brian Leonard and Clarke Harris each caught passes to continue their consecutive game streaks. Leonard has now made at least one reception in 39-straight games (second in Big East history) and Harris’ streak reached 35 games (fourth in Big East history).

Ito’s 53-yard field goal is the longest in his career and second longest in school history. Only John Benestad’s 55-yarder against West Virginia in 1990 is longer. Ito also has 41 career field goals and needs to make just five more to tie the mark of 46 set by Kennan Startzell in 1976-79.

(Game Story and stats here.)

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