Scarlet Knights see BCS title hopes go by the wayside

first_imgRutgers is one of five Top 10 teams to fall over the weekend BY DOUG McKENZIE Staff Writer While its Big East title aspirations remain very much alive, any shot the Rutgers University football team may have had at a national championship likely came to an end on Saturday in Piscataway. With Top 10 teams around the nation falling to supposed lesser opponents throughout the day, the Scarlet Knights couldn’t avoid an upset on their own home turf, as the Maryland Terrapins came into Piscataway and handed Greg Schiano’s 10th-ranked team its first loss of the year, 34-24, in front of the second-largest crowd in Rutgers history. “Our inability to stop the run was the difference in the game,” said Schiano following the game. “Maryland played very well and had a good plan. They executed that plan very well. The combination of us not playing well and them playing well, that was a bad combination today.” With junior wideout Tiquan Underwood (eight receptions for 101 yards and a TD), Heisman Trophy candidate Ray Rice (21 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown) and junior quarterback Mike Teel (25-for-44 for 310 yards and two TDs) leading the charge, the Scarlet Knights played well offensively, even taking an early lead when Jeremy Ito capped a 10-play, 68-yard drive that opened the game with a 29-yard field goal. After missing a 51-yard field-goal attempt of their own on their first possession, the Terrapins got on the board early in the second quarter when senior tailback Lance Ball found the end zone from 19 yards out to give Maryland a 7-3 lead. It marked the first time since the West Virginia loss last season (Dec. 2) that Rutgers trailed in a game, a span of 256:58 on the collective game clocks. Maryland padded its lead after RU’s Dennis Campbell muffed a punt and the Terrapins recovered, going 55 yards in nine plays to take a 14-3 lead on Darrius Heyward Bey’s 15-yard TD catch from Jordan Steffy with 6:23 to play in the first half. Another RU fumble on their next possession gave the visitors good field position once again, but the Scarlet Knights’ defense managed to hold them to a missed field-goal attempt from 39 yards out. Rutgers then launched their second long drive of the game, with Teel finding Tim Brown from 20 yards out to get the home team within 14-10. After the Knights’ defense forced a quick three-and-out, Rutgers got the ball back on its own 31-yard line, and after a pair of Teel completions for 47 yards combined, and a 15-yard pass interference call, Rutgers took the lead once again when Teel hit Underwood for a 7-yard TD pass, and a 17-14 lead at the half. Once the second half started, however, Maryland rallied behind backup QB Chris Turner, who subbed for the injured Steffy. Maryland tied the score on its second possession of the second half with a 26-yard field goal, and then regained the lead on another field goal, this time from 37 yards out. Up 20-17, Maryland then took control of the game on its next possession, going 58 yards in nine plays, capping the drive with a 2- yard scoring plunge. With just 7:42 left in the game, Rutgers found themselves down, 27-17, and the 43,083 fans in attendance were officially nervous. The home team responded with a nineplay, 58-yard drive, fueled mainly by Teel’s passing, and got within three once again, 27-24, on a Rice 1-yard scoring run. But it was all Maryland from there, as the Terrapins did just enough to thwart the Rutgers offense the rest of the way, while also adding a late rushing touchdown to make the final score 34-24, giving Rutgers its first home loss since a 45-31 defeat to South Florida on Nov. 5, 2005. While both teams moved the ball well, with the Terrapins generating 458 total yards to the Scarlet Knights’ 392, it was Maryland’s defense that came up big when it needed to down the stretch, handing RU its first loss of the year. In the loss, Underwood set a new school record with his fourth-straight 100-yard game. He surpassed Bill Powell, who achieved the feat on three straight occasions from Oct. 3-24, 1998. Despite not reaching the 100-yard mark, Rice did, however, achieve yet another milestone, tying J.J. Jennings for the most rushing touchdowns in school history with 34 when he carried 1 yard to pay dirt in the fourth quarter. In addition, Rutgers was a perfect 4-for-4 in the red zone and is a perfect 16-for-16 on the season. “We just have to get guys healthy, watch film and get better,” said Rice. “A loss isn’t necessarily good, but you can take a lot out of it.” Schiano was particularly impressed with the play of Teel, who topped the 200- yard mark in passing yards or the sixthstraight game, and also set a new career high with 25 completions. “I thought he hung in there and threw the ball. He got hit but he still threw the ball. I thought he did a heck of a job,” said the coach, while also pointing to the team’s inability to run the ball consistently. “There were certain run plays that worked effectively but it was never consistent,” he said. “We were unable to get into a flow. We had the two scores at the end of the first half, so the hurry-up offense worked fairly well, but we didn’t run the ball the way we have been able to in the past, and that was a big factor in the game. “In the third quarter we made a real conscious attempt to run the football,” he added. “Then with 6:58 to go [fourth quarter] we went to the two-minute offense. We were down 10, so we made the decision to air it out as we tried to come back.” The Scarlet Knights return to the gridiron next Saturday evening versus No. 24- ranked Cincinnati at Rutgers Stadium. The contest will kick off at 8 p.m. and will be televised live on ESPN2. The contest will mark the 13th meeting between RU and the Bearcats, with the Scarlet Knights holding a 7-4-1 advantage. It also represents a must-win game for the Scarlet Knights if they are to contend for the Big East title. “Any loss hurts, especially when you are trying to work yourself into position,” Schiano said. “But this team is resilient and the staff is resilient, and we will come to go to work tomorrow and find out how much better we can get in a week’s time. That is what we have recruited here and that is what is in the locker room, so they will battle back. That is the good thing about this sport, after every game you are right back at it. This team has a lot of resolve and we will come back. “We just have to regroup, get our medical situation assessed, and then make plans and get better,” he added. “When you look across the country, you see the ebbs and flows of college football. Sometimes when a team is out, they bounce back. We’ll just have to see how good we are.”last_img

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