Who woulda thunk it, Rutgers fans? With just one game left on the season, Rutgers is tied for the Big East's top spot, BCS hopes alive and well. The Scarlet Knights topped the Cincinnati Bearcats, 20-3, at home on Saturday, November 19th.
The biggest ovation from the crowd came before play even began. It was senior day at High Point Solutions Stadium, and Rutgers honored its veteran players in a ceremony on the field prior to kickoff.
Eric Legrand, who was paralyzed from the neck down last season making a tackle, was on hand to celebrate the occasion with his teammates. It literally gave me goosebumps to watch him come out of the Rutgers tunnel once again to join the team at midfield.
Once the game began, it was clear from the get-go that Rutgers' defense brought its A- game. Cincinatti, who averaged just over 37 points per game heading into the contest, was held scoreless after a first quarter field goal. Backup quarterback Munchie Legaux, who replaced the Bearcats' starter Zach Collaros, looked like a deer in the headlights. Cincinnatti was held to 225 total yards, a stark contrast from the 661 they pounded out last season in their fifth straight win over Rutgers, a 69-38 beat-down.
Give this week's game ball to Mohamed Sanu. Oops, sorry, typed that on auto-pilot…this week it belongs to Jawan Jamison, who exploded like a bat out of hell for 200 rushing yards against the nation's second-best run defense. As a team, Rutgers averaged just 90 yards on the ground heading into the game. Jamison carried the ball 34 times and scored both of Rutgers' touchdowns.
Quarterback Chas Dodd completed 21 of 35 passes for 185 yards. He played a solid game, but lacks the pocket presence of Gary Nova. And I'm not trying to stir the pot, I fully agree with Dodd getting the start, but he could have avoided 2 of the 3 sacks against him by getting rid of the ball. But more importantly, he didn't turn the ball over once, even after getting sacked by a nasty hit early on. How he held onto that ball is beyond me.
Rutgers dominated the time of possession, using a well-rounded offensive attack to hold onto the football for roughly 38 minutes of the game. Jamison's touchdown in the third quarter capped a drive that ate up nearly 10 minutes of clock, unheard of for the offensively challenged Scarlet Knights of previous games. Rutgers' defense, led by Khaseem Greene's 9 total tackles, came up with big stops on 3rd down, limiting the Bearcats to just 4 of 15 conversions.
I never would have guessed that Rutgers would win this game with Sanu limited to 38 receiving yards, but I guess the Scarlet Knights are just full of surprises this season. Rutgers still needs a win against UConn next week to potentially take the Big East, but even that does not secure their fate. The next crucial game for Rutgers is on Friday, November 25th, when West Virginia squares off against Pittsburgh. Both teams currently hold a 3-2 conference record, but since Rutgers beat Pitt this season, a West Virginia loss would be huge heading into Saturday's game against UConn. After that, it could boil down to a jumbled mess of a tie-breaker, involving head-to-head records, "mini-conference" standings, BCS ranking, and I think a coaches bake-off.
BCS bid or not, Rutgers could have easily rolled over and died after key losses to Louisville and West Virginia, but grinded out…sorry, chopped out… the rest of the season with a determined perseverance to even get themselves into this position. Congratulations RU, on a season to be proud of.
Joe is a graduate of Rutgers University and longtime fan of Scarlet Knights football.
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