PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Written off and under fire after losing five of its first six games, Rutgers is on the verge of completing one of the biggest in-season turnarounds in the history of the program that helped launch college football.
Mike Teel threw for 359 yards and a touchdown and the once-downtrodden Scarlet Knights became bowl eligible by beating Army 30-3 on Saturday for their fifth straight win.
"It's nice to be bowl eligible again," defensive tackle Pete Tverdov said. "It shows how far we have climbed from a couple of weeks ago. It has shown the tremendous character this team has, the leadership this team has and how truly tight we are as a family."
It's a far cry from early in the season, when coach Greg Schiano was under fire and fans were calling for Teel to be replaced despite three straight bowl appearances.
Teel said the recent surge might be even more gratifying than the Scarlet Knights' 9-0 start in 2006.
"You can only deal with what is in front of you, and that's what this football team has done," said Teel, whose passing total was 2 yards shy of his career best. "We have worried about what is in the present, what we are preparing for, and not dwelling on the past or the way things started or the what ifs in the future, like bowl games. It's been about this moment, and we have grown as a football team."
Safety Joe Lefeged returned a fumble 58 yards for a touchdown on the fourth play from scrimmage and Kenny Britt caught 10 passes for a career-best 197 yards as the Scarlet Knights (6-5, 4-2 Big East) continued to build momentum with scouts from the Meineke Bowl and the Texas Bowl in attendance.
"That's a very good football team we just played," Army coach Stan Brock said. "That's as good a football team as we have seen and as I have seen."
Rutgers held Army (3-8) to a season-low 219 yards in total offense, including 2 yards passing on two completions.
The Scarlet Knights, who gained a season-high 521 yards, will face Louisville (5-6, 1-5) on Dec. 4 in their final game. The Cardinals lost 35-21 to West Virginia on Saturday.
Teel and Britt were almost unstoppable.
Teel completed 23 of 33 passes and in the process set school marks for career passing yards (8,617) and total offense (8,405). His 50th career touchdown came on a 26-yard pass to tight end Shamar Graves.
"We have definitely gelled as a team," said Britt, who has five straight 100-yard receiving games. "I feel we are getting better each week, and we're focusing on getting five percent better, everything we do."
San San Te added three field goals on a brisk, windy afternoon at Rutgers Stadium, and Tim Brown scored on a 19-yard end around as the Scarlet Knights opened a 30-0 lead and rested their starters after three quarters.
Collin Mooney rushed for 108 yards and Matthew Campbell kicked a 24-yard field goal for Army. The Black Knights finish their season Dec. 6 with their annual game against Navy, which has won the last six meetings of the service rivals.
"It's been a while," said Mooney, whose 46-yard run set up Campbell's field goal. "It would be an awesome win. It would make our season. We are 3-8 right now, and a win like that against Navy would be huge."
The Black Knights, who came into the game after a week off, were their own worst enemy again, losing two fumbles to push their NCAA-high total to 23.
Quarterback Chip Bowden lost the ball after being tackled by Zaire Kitchen on the opening drive and Lefeged, who recovered both fumbles, scooped up the ball and scored.
"It feels good," Lefeged said of the turnaround. "We always felt we were a good team."
A 44-yard pass from Teel to Britt set up Te's first field goal, a 32-yarder into a stiff wind for a 10-0 lead late in the quarter.
Britt helped push the lead to 17-0 early in the second quarter, running for 16 yards and catching passes of 12 and 19 yards to set up the touchdown pass to a wide-open Graves.
Britt caught passes of 23 and 20 yards later in the quarter to set up field goals of 39 and 27 yards for a 23-0 halftime lead.
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