PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) -- With its offense sputtering and its
unbeaten season in jeopardy, No. 15 Rutgers turned to its
opportunistic defense and special teams to turn away an upset bid.
Rutgers' defense, offense and special teams scored touchdowns in
a game for the second time this season in a 23-14 win over
Connecticut on Sunday night that kept the Scarlet Knights (8-0) one
of six unbeaten teams in Division 1-A.
Rutgers can now turn its attention to a showdown with No. 5
Louisville a week from Thursday. The Cardinals (7-0) will face No.
3 West Virginia this Thursday night.
That game came close to losing some of its luster as Rutgers had
its hands full with UConn.
"We didn't play our best football of the season, that's for
certain," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "But we made plays to
win the football game, and that's what good teams do."
The biggest of those plays came midway through the fourth
quarter when Jamaal Westerman -- who earlier had forced a fumble by
UConn quarterback D.J. Hernandez that led to a touchdown -- blocked
Chris Pavasaris' punt with Rutgers hanging on to a 17-13 lead.
Quintero Frierson scooped up the loose ball in the end zone for
a touchdown that finally put the Huskies (3-5) away.
"I've been watching our defensive backs blocking punts and I
just tried to use their technique," Westerman said.
Manny Collins, who has blocked five punts for Rutgers in his
career, scored from 11 yards out in the second quarter when
Westerman dragged Hernandez down from behind as the quarterback
tried to scramble around right end.
Ray Rice scored on a 5-yard run on the first drive of the game
for Rutgers, but the nation's second-leading rusher was held to 79
yards, his lowest total of the season. He entered the game
averaging 161 yards, second behind Northern Illinois' Garrett
"They packed the box," Rice said. "They did a great job. I'm
just happy we came out with a win. That's the biggest thing: we're
After Rutgers took a 17-0 halftime lead, UConn freshman Donald
Brown scored on touchdown runs of 65 and 7 yards. Playing in place
of starter Terry Caulley, Brown finished with 199 yards in his
first college start, by far the most yards this season against
Rutgers, which had been allowing 78 yards per game.
Rutgers needed the contributions from its defense and special
teams because its offense was largely nonexistent in the second
half. The Scarlet Knights managed one first down in the third
quarter and gained 75 yards in the final 30 minutes.
When Brown scored his second touchdown near the end of the third
quarter to cut Rutgers' lead to 17-13, boos could be heard from the
crowd of 41,077 at Rutgers Stadium.
"You could feel the tide going the other way," Schiano said.
"We needed to turn it around and we had guys who made plays who
have made plays all year."
UConn, meanwhile, was plagued by mistakes. A long kickoff return
in the first half by Larry Taylor to the Rutgers 31 was erased by a
holding penalty, and a fumble by Hernandez near the end of the half
stopped a drive that had reached the Rutgers 43.
Rice and Collins scored to give Rutgers a 14-0 lead that Jeremy
Ito extended to 17-0 midway through the second quarter with a
51-yard field goal, his second-longest of the season behind his
53-yarder against South Florida on Sept. 29. It was the senior's
46th field goal, tying the school record set by Kennan Startzell in
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Quintero Frierson recovered a blocked punt in the end zone with less than nine minutes left to give Rutgers the final 24-13 margin.
Gameball goes to... Rutgers' defense. On a night that Ray Rice, the nation's second-leading rusher, was held largely in check, the defense scored a touchdown, held UConn to 67 passing yards, and eliminated any chance of a comeback by shutting down the Huskies on their final two possessions.
Stat of the game... 2. The number of non-offensive touchdowns scored by the Knights on Sunday.