PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Playing farther away from home than ever before, Fresno State made another team from a BCS conference regret inviting the Bulldogs to town.
Ryan Mathews ran for 163 yards and three touchdowns, Seyi Ajirotutu set up two scores with long receptions and Fresno State made its first trip to the East Coast a successful one with a 24-7 victory over Rutgers on Monday night.
"Anytime you can go on the road and travel 3,000 miles and come away with a 24-7 win and play defense like we did, hey, they made yards tonight, but they didn't put it in the end zone too often," Fresno State coach Pat Hill said.
After shaking off a first-half offensive malaise -- can't blame jet lag because the Bulldogs arrived on Saturday -- Fresno State got rolling in the second half and went on to its 13th victory over teams in BCS conferences since 2000, tied with Utah for the most in the nation for non-BCS teams.
"I don't think we're a mid-major team," said Bulldogs quarterback Tom Brandstater, who finished with 216 yards passing after a 5-for-15 first half. "I think we can play with anyone in the country."
Ajirotutu came up with the two biggest plays. The first was a 77-yarder in the third quarter that led to Mathews' first score, a 4-yarder.
The second was a 31-yard reception on third-and-23 in the fourth quarter, which put the ball at the 1. Mathews scored two plays later to make it 17-7 with 6:46 left in the game.
"Seyi is a playmaker and Tom is a playmaker and they knew exactly what they had to do," Mathews said. "A couple of those passes woke the team up and it was 'All right now let's go.' It's what we needed to wake us up and to get in the game and say 'We got this."
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said: "The game was decided on those pass plays."
Scarlet Knights safety Courtney Greene took blame for the breakdowns in coverage.
"It was all mental errors," he said.
The Bulldogs from the Western Athletic Conference will be logging big miles this season, over 18,000 before it's over, as Hill stays true to his motto of: "Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime." For this trip -- a late add to the schedule in April -- the Bulldogs couldn't afford the nonstop charter flight but the stop in Wichita, Kan., was well worth it considering the result.
"We have the schedule this year to prove that we shouldn't be a mid-major. But until we back up what we're saying people are still going to call us mid-majors," Brandstater said.
Fresno State gets Wisconsin at home in two weeks to go for another win over a BCS team, then travels to Toledo and UCLA.
The first game without Ray Rice wasn't encouraging for Rutgers. While the Scarlet Knights' career rushing leader was preparing for his first NFL game with the Baltimore Ravens, his old school was having a hard time putting points on the board.
Rice's replacement, Kordell Young, ran well, picking up 94 yards on 26 carries and a 1-yard touchdown with 11:20 left to cut the lead to 10-7.
Fresno State responded with touchdowns on its next two drives. Mathews' third short TD run, a 1-yarder with 3:15 left, made it 24-7 and ensured a happy trip back to California's Central Valley.
The Scarlet Knights can lament myriad mistakes, including two missed field goals by new kicker San San Te, a failed fourth-and-goal play from the 3, an interception in the end zone and an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown wiped out by a block-in-the-back penalty.
Mike Teel was 20-for-39 for 263 yards for Rutgers, which moved the ball well but couldn't finish off drives.
"I'd say we were out of synch," Schiano said. "It didn't feel like we ever got into a flow."
After a scoreless first half, Fresno State broke through on the opening drive with Kevin Goessling's 31-yard field goal.
The Bulldogs got the ball back quickly and got into the end zone even faster. Brandstater found Ajirotutu running free down the right sideline for a long gainer to the Rutgers 4. Mathews swept around left end on the next play to make it 10-0.
"The first half we came out and we were a little low on energy and I think we were just going through the motions," said Mathews, who ran for 106 yards in the second half. "Coach gave us a little talk at halftime and we knew then it was 0-0 and we had to step up and play Bulldog football."
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