Rutgers (8-5, 3-5 Big Ten) freshman Josh Hicks ran for 202 yards and one touchdown and fellow freshman Robert Martin ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns, giving third year coach Kyle Flood his first bowl championship victory at Rutgers.
“I think it’s a continuation of what started a little earlier in the year,” Flood said of his two freshman backs. “Those are two talented football players. That [running back] room is a talented room.”
It was the first time since 2006 that two Rutgers players finished with 100 yards rushing in one game. Hicks was named game MVP for his performance.
“It’s my childhood dream,” Hick said. “but none of that would be able without my man Gary Nova, the O-line, all of the seniors that helped get me to this point. I would be nothing without them.”
Scarlet Knights record setting quarterback Gary Nova threw for two touchdown passes – which added to his school record 73 – as the senior finished his last game completing 9 of 20 passes for an 184 yards. He first connected with Andre Patton over the middle for a 34-yard touchdown pass-catch combo in Rutgers’ opening drive of the first quarter.
“It feels real good,” Nova said. “Especially with the way we performed today. The first drive, going right down the field and scoring. I knew we were going to have a pretty good day on offense.”
The win marks the seventh time in nine season Rutgers would finish with at least eight wins.
North Carolina (6-7, 4-4 ACC) lost two first-half fumbles, failed a fake field goal and missed another, as Rutgers took a 23-0 halftime lead. The Tar Heels would rally with two late fourth quarter scores to make the game seem closer than it was, with the Rutgers leads as much 40-7 with early in the fourth quarter.
Rutgers outrushed North Carolina 340 to 219 and outgained NC’s offense 524 to 482. Offensively, however, they didn’t do anything North Carolina wasn’t expecting, NC coach Larry Fedora said.
“They didn’t do anything different than what we had prepared for,” Fedora said. “In all three phases, actually.”
The Tar Heels would add a Marquise Williams 1-yard touchdown run, to cap off a 12-play 76 yard drive on Carolina’s third quarter opening drive, that made the score 23-7.
NC tried a fake field goal on Rutgers 5, but holder Joey Mangili was tackled for a 4-yard loss at by Darious Hamilton with 2:19 left in the first quarter.
Hicks capped off a seven-play, 91 yard scoring drive with 21 yard touchdown run to give the Scarlet Knights a 14-0 lead with 13:37 left in the second quarter. The drive included multiple big plays by the RU offense, including a 23-yard reception by Leontee Caroo and 15-yard scramble by Nova.
After a Tar Heel fumble, Rutgers would have little trouble scoring again, going 49-yards in five-plays, finishing with a Robert Martin eight-yard touchdown run to give the Scarlet Knights a commanding 20-0 lead with 9:08 left in the first-half.
Kicker Kyle Federico’s 19-yard field goal gave Rutgers a 23-0 lead at halftime.
At the half, Rutgers out-gained North Carolina 281 yards to 197.
After the game, Carroo announced he would return for his senior season.