The win snapped a three-game losing slide and sent the Scarlet Knights (6-6, 3-5 American Athletic Conference) to the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 28 for a game against Notre Dame (8-4). Rutgers coach Kyle Flood announced that the bowl bid was extended shortly after the game at High Point Solutions Stadium ended.
Marvin Kloss kicked two field goals for South Florida (2-10, 2-6), which ended its first season under Willie Taggart with a six-game losing streak.
The win should take some pressure off Flood, but there is no guarantee that taking the Scarlet Knights to two straight bowls with a 15-10 overall record will guarantee him the job when they move into the Big Ten Conference next season.
Rutgers, which gave up 121 points in losing its last three games to Cincinnati, No. 15 Central Florida and Connecticut, had no problem with the offensively challenged Bulls. The defense limited them to 151 total yards, including just 10 yards rushing on 20 attempts.
The Scarlet Knights took the lead for good on their second series after taking over near midfield. Dodd hit Quron Pratt on an 18-yard pass on a first-and-25 play after an illegal hands to the face. It ignited a drive that James capped with an almost untouched run from the 5-yard line.
A muffed snap on the Bulls' next series was recovered by Darius Hamilton at the South Florida 24. Dodd was intercepted on first down by Brandon Salinas but a roughing the passer call allowed Rutgers to keep the ball. Dodd hit Patton on a crossing pattern on the next play to make it 14-0.
Kloss kicked a 24-yard field goal midway through the second quarter after a South Florida drive bogged down at the 7. But Dodd hit Burton for his short touchdown after connecting with tight end Tyler Kroft on a 24-yard pass to the 2.
Kloss added a second field goal just before the end of the half to cut the deficit to 21-6,
Rutgers put the game away with the only 10 points in the second half.
James scored from a yard out on a drive that he accounted for 58 of the 69 yards with 11 runs and a catch. Joe Behnke kicked a 20-yard field goal in the final minute.