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Rutgers “Chops” down Second-ranked South Florida, 30-27
The Birthplace of College Football, NJ – In front of a home, record crowd of 44,627 fans, Rutgers, the first school to ever place a team on a college football gridiron, defeated the second-ranked team in the nation, South Florida, only a 10-year old program, 30-27, last Thursday night for one of numerous upsets of undefeated Top Ten Teams over the last three weeks. Timely, trick plays and significant pressure on USF QB Matt Grothe especially in the second half propelled the Scarlet Knights (5-2, 2-1) past the Bulls from Tampa who also hurt themselves with numerous “stupid” penalties as pointed out by Guest Game Analyst Frank Scarpa. The Bulls (6-1, 1-1) threatened into the final minute of play, but Rutgers defense rose to the occasion while a key Bull penalty and the lack of any time-outs remaining thwarted their last-minute attempts to win this game.
Rutgers went to its bag of new tricks from punt formation on its first possession. Punter/PK extraordinaire Jeremy Ito took the snap from center and tossed a 36-yard pass to cover man James Townsend who flew past a dumbfounded defender who watched in disbelief as the RU receiver caught the pass behind the defender who never saw it coming. RU made it to the Bulls’ two for a first-and-goal, but the Bulls held and the Scarlet Knights settled for Ito’s 25-yard FG for an early 3-0 lead. It was interesting to see USF let the Rutgers crowd exercise it lungs on their first offensive play to let the clock run down before calling time-out. It seemed like a plan on USF’s behalf to settle down the largest crowd in Rutgers Stadium history as the game started. The Bulls proceeded to drive for PK Delbe Alvarado’s 47-yard FG to tie the score, 3-3. The Bulls took a 10-3 lead on the their next possession as Grothe (118 yard on 18 carries, but 60 yards in sacks netted him 58 rushing yards) was forced from the pocket and scrambled 18 yards for the USF score. Alvarado converted.
Driving to start the second period, Rutgers QB Mike Teel (11 of 29 for 179 yards and 2 TDs) flipped a 3-yard scoring pass to WR Tiquan Underwood who ran a short curl-in route to even the score at 10-10. Later in the quarter, RU WR Tim Brown fumbled a punt recovered by South Florida’s Eric Setser to gain possession for his team at Rutgers’ 18. A holding call sent the Bulls back ten yards, but Grothe responded with a 28-yard TD pass to WR Jessie Hester for a 17-10 lead. RU attempted to cut USF’s lead, but the Bulls blocked Ito’s 37-yard attempt. The Bulls’ greediness hurt them though as they fumbled forward once legitimately and fumbled forward again illegitimately for a 15-yard penalty to put them back on the Rutgers’ 44. The drive resulted in a FG attempt wide left from 45 yards out with 1:06 left in the first half. Enough time remained though to get RU back on the board as Teel connected with WR Tim Brown for 20 yards to the 23. Ito connected with a 40-yard FG with five seconds left in the first half to cut USF’s lead at 17-13.
With a record crowd on hand, the Rutgers administration demonstrated its capability to adapt to their football team’s success as the parking situation to get into the stadium area parking lots has vastly improved compared to last year’s parking debacle at the Louisville game. Now, they need to figure a way to debottle-neck the jam up leading into the men’s rooms during halftime festivities! We skipped the wait to watch a little of the Scarlet Knight marching band, and watched the Rutgers 2007 Big East champion baseball team receive their awards. The Knights baseball program has been strong over the years as its football and basketball programs have struggled. Among the team’s honorees is Junior All-American SS Todd Frazier who was member of the 1998 Little League World Series Champion, Toms River (NJ). This year, he was selected #34 overall by the Cincinnati Reds in the Major League draft.
The Knights took their first lead on their first possession of the second half when a Mike Teel pass was seemingly snatched right out of the air by WR Tiquan Underwood (5 catches, 114 yards, 2 TDs) before a USF defender almost intercepted. Underwood avoided a tackle on a curl-in route and cut back outside to his right to streak down the sideline for a 69-yard catch and run play. The play seemed to shock the Bulls as RU gained the lead, 20-17. Later in the period, Tim Brown mishandled another punt and USF recovered. Because of a block in the back by the Knights, the penalty spotted the ball at the RU 24, but the Knight defense responded holding the Bulls to a 37-yard FG attempt. The Knights erased Brown’s blunder even further by blocking the attempt and taking back over on their own 30. Ray Rice (39 carries for 181 yards) broke free for a 32-yard run to South Florida’s 25. The Knight drive, however, stalled at the 20 where Ito came in for a FG attempt, but holder and back-up QB Andrew DePaolo took the snap, stood up, and fired a 20-yard scoring strike to TE Kevin Brock in the end zone for six points instead. Ito’s PAT gave RU a 27-17 lead over the second-ranked Bulls. The Knight defense stepped up the pressure on Grothe during the second half causing hurries, tipping passes, and sacking him seven times. However, Grothe overcame a third and ten at the RU 25 with a pass to Marcus Edwards at RU’s twelve. That’s as far as the RU defense allowed the Bulls to move resulting in Alvarado’s 35-yard FG to retain their lead, 27-20.
In the final period, a cover sack threw Grothe for a loss and forced USF to punt from their fourteen. USF hurt themselves when RU returner Townsend was clobbered after calling for a fair catch to put the Knights at the Bull thirty-nine. The result was a 51-yard FG attempt by Jeremy Ito to put RU up by ten again, 30-20. The Bulls responded quickly when Grothe connected with TE Cedric Hill for 23 yards to the RU three. RB Mike Ford carried for the final honors on a one-yard plunge as the Bulls trailed, 30-27, with 9:16 remaining – supposedly with plenty of time for either team to score again. Another late hit out of bounds by USF gave Rutgers possession at the South Florida forty-nine, but the Knights couldn’t move, so Ito squibbed his punt down to the USF three. USF couldn’t move and punted the ball back. An unusual occurrence took place as RB Ray Rice fumbled the ball away to give USF possession at the Scarlet Knight forty-yard line. RU’s defense held again to force the Bulls to punt. RU could not convert a first down this possession, but USF probably erred when they used all three of their remaining time-outs to preserve time for their final possession. Down by three, they would need a TO to stop the clock for a possible FG attempt. With 1:33 left in the game and no time-outs left, South Florida retreated from the RU forty-nine. Grothe was sacked for a 10-yard loss by DB Joe Lefeged, Big East Defensive Player of the Week the week before. On a fourth and twenty-two, a push-off was called against South Florida’s receiver to give the Bulls one more play on a fourth and thirty-seven. On a desperation attempt, Grothe threw far and high before the pass was intercepted by DB Zaire Kitchen who should have knocked it down, but it didn’t matter! RU ran out the clock for its first win ever over a number two-ranked team since joining the College Football Bowl Subdivision in the 1970s. By the end of the weekend, the Knights and Bulls along with West Virginia and Pitt each had only one loss in conference play. As one RU fan mentioned in the close-to-empty men’s room after the game, “The scary thing is Connecticut’s the only undefeated team left in Big East play. “ We don’t expect that to last too long. Big games loom for the Big East next weekend. The Knights will host West Virginia on the 27th. The Bulls go back to Raymond James Stadium to take on the conference-leading Huskies the same day. There are many important games remaining in the Big East to crown this year’s champion.
Extra Points: Matt Grothe ran on 18 of his teams 38 rushing plays to net only 58 yards when the seven sacks of 60 yards are totaled into his output. While 17 of 34 passing for 247 yards, he doesn’t seem to spread the ball as much as he should to make his team’s running game go even better. The rest of the team never seemed to get started with only 57 yards on 20 carries. Most of those rushes seemed to come late in the game.
Seemingly cool, calm, collected Bull Head Coach Jim Leavitt threw temper tantrums along the sideline several times. Not only did he slam his USF visor to the ground on one foul-up, but he slapped one of his players on back or the helmet after he was called for a holding call on a play right in front of the coach. After Leavitt seemed to realize what he had done, he embraced his player around the shoulder pads and walked him down the sideline seeming to apologize for an extended period of time. As much as he educated the media all week that the number two ranking wasn’t the important thing but that focusing on the upcoming game was, the challenge to stay at number two seemed to be getting the best of him at times during this game.
GGA Frank Scarpa, Rutgers-Newark grad, misplaces his prized Newark Knights ball cap recently and is having a hard time trying to find a replacement. Frank pointed out the many untimely, stupid penalties by the Bulls, and their inability to take advantage of Knights’ miscues. Frank also explained that they don't teach geography, at least well, at South Florida located in Tampa which is slightly in a southwest direction from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Miami is south in Florida. We need to confer with our cousins who went to USF and UCF to explain this directional dilemma to us one of these days!
A great Rutgers t-shirt seen reads on back: “Welcome to New Jersey; home of three bosses – Tony, Bruce, and Greg” – meaning Soprano, Springsteen, and Schiano, of course!
Traffic to the game around the Rutgers campus has greatly improved, but leaving the campus is a different story. We heard about difficulties after a Saturday game against Cincinnati last week from a friend who had a pre-paid parking pass to park close to RU Stadium, but leaving was even more difficult after a game that ends 11:37 at night when most everyone stays right to the end! The shuttle bus we took back to the Rutgers Athletic Center (The “RAC”) got stuck in traffic so long that almost half of us on the bus got off and walked about the last mile or so. We never ran into this problem in the past with the understanding there were dedicated bus routes to avoid car traffic, but we must be wrong. The bus eventually beat us back to our drop-off, but it was good to also get out and stretch the legs a little. Three of four guys in back of the bus were asleep when we hopped off probably from an early start at tailgating. Once back in the lot, traffic there was backed up again, so we waited it out about half an hour with a little tailgating. We got home a little before 3 a.m. Three hours later, it was time to get up and go to work If we do this next year, we may plan to take Friday off. We didn’t do it this year because, well…we have big plans next week to take off Friday and Monday!