Tied for First: Defense Silences Cincinnati

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Rutgers did not only win, but completely dominated the Big East's first-place team today at High Point Solutions Stadium. Winning 20-3, the Scarlet Knights are tied for first in the conference in the most significant November victory since 2006. The Scarlet Knights need help for a BCS bid, but a win next week at Connecticut means at least a share of the Conference Championship.

In a year's time, running back Jawan Jamison went from watching the Cincinnati debacle on television from his dorm room — red-shirting and not traveling with the team — to being the star of the show.

The fleet-footed starting running back gashed Cincinnati with multiple 20-yard runs and 5.9 per carry.

Cincinnati was the best team in the country against the run going into the game. Not anymore.

Jamison alone totaled 208 yards, the best for a freshman since Ray Rice, and the only two touchdowns of the game.

"The way we ran the football, that's what we want to be," said head coach Greg Schiano. "We've been there before. I thought the offensive line did a great job and [offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti] and the staff put together a great plan to be able to run it when you want to run it, throw it when you want to throw it."

More importantly, Jamison's vision plowed the way for a dominating time-of-possession performance for the Scarlet Knights, keeping the high-powered Cincinnati offense off the field. Rutgers held the ball 17 more minutes than Cincinnati, including a nine-minute field goal drive in the second quarter.

For the offense, Rutgers had zero turnovers, ran the ball successfully and converted 44 percent of its third downs.

"That was huge for the offense to put together drives like that," said sophomore cornerback Logan Ryan. "They just stayed on the field and against an offense like that, it was huge to stay rested and alert. I give all the credit to the offense for that."

Even when the Bearcats' offense was on the field, however, exotic defensive schemes by Schiano and the lack of Zach Collaros led to the worst offensive output of the season.

It was a complete effort for the defense, but cornerback Brandon Jones made the two most memorable plays. In the first quarter, Jones stripped quarterback Munchie Legaux on a delayed blitz to set up Jamison's first touchdown. In the fourth, he intercepted Legaux to ice the game.

"It wasn't just good enough to get a sack there," Jones said on his forced fumble. "I had to get the ball out."

Last year, Cincinnati totaled 661 yards. Rutgers held the Bearcats to 225 — an improvement of 436 yards.

The Bearcats ran for 228 fewer yards than last season and score 66 fewer points. Running back Isiah Pead, who went for 213 last season, went for 28.

"The players executed the plan," Schiano said. "[Linebackers coach Bob Fraser] and the staff and the players, they executed the way they're supposed to."

The improvement from last year's Cincinnati game, however, is nothing in comparison to the overall improvement from last season.

After going 4-8 last year, Rutgers is 8-3 (4-2) going into the Connecticut game next week and wins at least a share of the Big East Championship with a victory over the Huskies.

The Scarlet Knights need help from West Virginia and Louisville to go to the BCS, but for a team picked to finish last after an embarrassing 2010 showing, Rutgers is one game away from a magical rebound.

Should Rutgers win against UConn, the team is in good shape for the BCS only if West Virginia loses. BCS rankings likely put the Scarlet Knights ahead of Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Louisville in the case of a multi-team tie, but not the Mountaineers. If there is just a two-team tie for first, then it comes down to the head-to-head matchup. In that case, Rutgers goes over Cincinnati or Pittsburgh, but not West Virginia or Louisville.

"It's just a great win for the program," said junior defensive tackle Scott Vallone. "We're right in the thick of it and that's where we want to be. We have to make sure we take care of business next week."

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