NCF Nation: Billy Anderson
QB Tom Savage, Rutgers
There weren't a lot of big numbers for Big East quarterbacks in the postseason. The Scarlet Knights' true freshman completed 14 of 27 for 294 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception, in a win over Central Florida in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
RB Mike Ford, South Florida
Ford exploded for 207 yards on 20 carries -- almost all of them in the second half -- to help the Bulls beat Northern Illinois in the International Bowl.
The sensational freshman had 159 yards on 28 carries and a score against North Carolina's tough run defense in the Meineke Car Care Bowl
RB Noel Devine, West Virginia
The Mountaineers' star ran for 168 yards on 16 carries in just three quarters against Florida State in the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl
WR Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers
Yet another freshman standout, Sanu had four catches for 97 yards and a score and also ran the ball 13 times for 41 yards and two more touchdowns.
WR Mike Shanahan, Pitt
Shanahan had five catches for 83 yards, many of them in traffic and in key spots, against North Carolina. And he's a freshman, too.
OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers
The future NFL first-rounder had his ups and downs this season. But he held off Central Florida's impressive pass rusher in a strong performance during his final college game.
OT Jason Pinkston, Pitt
North Carolina came into the Meineke game with the nation's No. 6 defense, but Pinkston helped the Pitt line move the chains and get the win.
C Moe Petrus, UConn
Petrus was part of a group that helped pave the way for 146 rushing yards against South Carolina in the Papajohns.com Bowl.
OG John Malecki, Pitt
OG Zach Hurd, UConn
DE Lindsey Witten, UConn
The senior was part of a defensive line that overwhelmed the South Carolina offensive front.
DT Kendall Reyes, UConn
He had a one sack and put lots of pressure on Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia.
DT Mick Williams, Pitt
The Big East co-defensive player of the year registered a pair of sacks against North Carolina.
DE Alex Daniels, Cincinnati
One of the few Bearcats who had a good night in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Daniels had a pair of sacks and three tackles for loss against Florida.
LB Max Gruder, Pitt
Playing in his hometown, Gruder recorded 11 tackles and forced a fumble against North Carolina.
LB Scott Lutrus, UConn
The junior had nine tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery against South Carolina.
LB Steve Beauharnais, Rutgers
Another freshman, Beauharnais had seven tackles and a pair of sacks against Central Florida.
CB Billy Anderson, Rutgers
The little-known reserve returned an interception 19 yards for a touchdown near the end of the first half in a key play.
CB Jerome Murphy, South Florida
He had an interception, a fumble recovery and two pass breakups in the International Bowl.
S Robert Sands, West Virginia
Sands was just about everywhere in the Gator Bowl, recording 13 tackles, two of them for loss.
S Robert Vaughn, UConn
Vaughn had an interception and two pass breakups in the Papajohns.com Bowl.
K Dan Hutchins, Pitt
Hutchins hit four field goals, including the game-winning 33-yarder, against North Carolina.
P Jake Rogers, Cincinnati
Rogers punted more than he has in a game all season, but he put half his six punts inside the Florida 20.
KR Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati
He sure had plenty of opportunities, but he piled up a Sugar Bowl-record 207 return yards on eight attempts.
How the game was won: Rutgers managed to take advantage of Central Florida's shaky pass defense to the tune of 294 passing yards by freshman quarterback Tom Savage. The defense, meanwhile, held UCF to just 32 rushing yards and came up with two key interceptions -- including one for a touchdown -- as the Scarlet Knights cruised to victory.
Turning point: Billy Anderson's interception and 19-yard return for a score late in the first half gave Rutgers a commanding 28-17 lead going into the half.
Player of the game: Mohamed Sanu. The Rutgers true freshman scored three touchdowns -- two out of Wildcat formation rushes and one on a reception -- and had 147 total yards.
Unsung hero of the game: Tim Brown was doubtful with a leg injury and appeared to be injured again during the game. Still, he managed four catches for 100 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown that was reminiscent of his grab-and-go to beat Connecticut earlier this year.
Stat of the game: Brynn Harvey, who had rushed for more than 100 yards in his last three regular season games, was held to 30 yards on 13 carries by the Rutgers defense.
What it means: It's hard to say the St. Petersburg Bowl means a whole lot. Still, Rutgers wrapped up a nine-win season and has something to build upon going into next year, especially with true freshmen Savage and Sanu playing so well. They should be stars in the Big East for a long, long time. As for Central Florida, the Knights showed they aren't quite ready for the Big East yet despite talk of the Knights being a potential addition to the league in the near future.
Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty experienced an odd sensation when spring practice began last week. For the first time in his athletic career, he was lining up without his identical twin, Jason.
Oh, brother, where art thou?
|Duncan Williams/Icon SMI|
|Cornerback Devin McCourty is taking on a leadership role on Rutgers' defense.|
"Yeah, definitely it's weird," he said. "With him not here, it's like a new stage in both of our lives. It's a new process, but I'm starting to get used to it."
Devin redshirted his first year at Rutgers, while Jason played on special teams as a true freshman. They both started at cornerback for the Scarlet Knights the past two seasons. Now Jason is preparing for a possible pro career, leaving only one McCourty on this year's team.
Devin doesn't buy into that whole notion that twins can read each others' minds and whatnot. Still, there's no denying the incredibly close connection the McCourty brothers shared.
"You're going to be in tune with somebody when you share the same room with them your whole life and every sport you've ever played, you've played together," Devin says. "You just have a feel for where they're going to be and what they're going to do next. You see it in NFL players who've played together so long; they all have a feel for whatever the other person's going to do. That's what I had with Jason."
The two brothers still talk every day, Jason updating his NFL preparations and Devin dishing out Rutgers happenings. The more important communication for Rutgers right now, though, will be going on between Devin and his current teammates.
It's not just Jason who is missing this spring. The Scarlet Knights lost senior stalwart Courtney Greene to graduation at safety, and they are practicing without Joe Lefeged, last year's other starting safety who's recovering from a shoulder injury. That leaves Devin McCourty as one of the few experienced defensive backs available this spring.
"When you have a guy like Courtney starting here for four years, replacing everything he does is tough," McCourty said. "He was a great player who made a lot of calls last year.
"It's my fifth year here, and coach is looking at me as a leader and guys are looking up at me. If I can help the safeties by making some calls or doing anything, that's what I'll try to do out there."
Jason McCourty tied for the team lead with two interceptions last year, running one back for a touchdown. His possible replacements lack much game experience. Fifth-year senior Billy Anderson, a seldom-used career reserve, came into the spring listed as the first-string cornerback opposite of Devin McCourty.
Jason was seen as having better cover skills early in his career, while Devin was viewed as the more physical of the two. Devin finished fifth on the team in tackles last season with 57, five ahead of his brother.
Both brothers are leaders on and off the field. Jason was a team captain in 2008 and was named Rutgers' male scholar-athlete of the year by the Big East. Devin has made the Big East all-academic team for three straight years.
Defensive back is a position where communication and trust are the underlying principles. Devin may never again find the same sort of connection he had with his twin, but this spring is about establishing new relationships and a new identity for the Rutgers secondary.
"I'm taking a leadership role and working with the young corners a lot, building bonds with all of them," he said. "Right now, it's like I'm a teacher and they're the student. I'm hoping by Game 1, we'll be have a perfect bond out there and be able to compete and get things going."