Defensive stops when they needed it most and two key special teams plays paved the way for a Scarlet Knight' 20-17 comeback win over South Florida in overtime.
This time, Chas Dodd played the hero role off the bench, leading an 80-yard touchdown drive in the final three minutes to force overtime and kicker San San Te booted his third career game-winning field goal.
"I don't know how many teams trust each other and believe each other, have that kind of mental toughness to keep going," said head coach Greg Schiano. "I'm very, very proud of them. We certainly need to get a lot better, but when you have fighters like we do here that have kept us close in every game, won some, lost some, but to come back tonight and win this one was very important for our program, for those kids and for these coaches. I'm very pleased, obviously, about the way they fought."
With the offense going nowhere behind Gary Nova, Dodd came back into the game looking like he did not miss a snap. The sophomore hit receiver Mohamed Sanu seven times for 60 yards on one drive alone to tie the game. With the defense keying on Sanu, Dodd hit Brandon Coleman in the end-zone and the red-shirt freshman made a sure-handed catch.
"I was definitely happy to see him make that play," said Sanu, who finished with 113 yards on 11 catches. "He makes it every day in practice and he's a great player. It was about time for him to make that big play."
After Coleman's catch tied it, Rutgers relied on luck with South Florida botched a field goal as time expired. In overtime, safety Duron Harmon intercepted USF quarterback B.J. Daniels to set up Te's game-winner.
Te's kick makes Rutgers bowl eligible and puts the Scarlet Knights (6-3, 3-2) in third place in the Big East.
"I was just so happy to win the game," Schiano said. "It's great. Six times in seven years, I think, you know, ten years ago Rutgers people might have signed up for that. I understand my expectations are higher, but I'm happy we're going back to a Bowl game. Wherever it is, I'm happy we're going."
Most teams would have called it quits trailing 17-3 with seven minutes on the clock, but sophomore Jeremy Deering gave the Scarlet Knights the boost they needed on a 98-yard touchdown return.
The return brought Rutgers within one score and gave the team enough momentum to overtake the Bulls.
"The kids executed it perfectly," Schiano said. "Really Jeremy Deering, what a great thing for him to do it against his hometown school."
Before Dodd came into the game, Nova and the Rutgers offense remained stagnant. Nova, who started the last four games, went 11-for-24 for 110 yards and lost a fumble.
The run game, however, was even worth with Miles Shuler's nine-yard run almost being enough to lead the team.
"Look, some nights you're not moving the ball, and whether it's the quarterback's fault or not, it isn't working," Schiano said. "So at that point I wanted to try to shake it up. I didn't want to go in and come back in the locker room with three points and say woulda, shoulda, coulda."