While UConn managed to put the clamps on Rutgers Heisman Trophy longshot Ray Rice (22 carries, 79 yards for the nation's No. 2 rusher, who was averaging 161 yards per game coming in), it was the Rutgers' defense and special teams that again proved to be the difference.
"We didn't play our best football of the season, that's for certain," said RU coach Greg Schiano. "But we made plays to win the football game and that's what good teams do."
Defensive back Manny Collins recovered a Jamaal Westerman-forced fumble and was pulled into the end zone by teammate Ramel Meekins for one score (an 11-yard return) -- and Westerman, a defensive end, blocked a punt that turned into a Quintero Frierson TD that wrapped things up after the Huskies, once down, 17-0, had closed to within 17-13.
In all, the No. 2 defense in the country, which ranked No. 12 or higher in five defensive categories coming in, survived. Rutgers got a scare from UConn freshman Donald Brown, who ran wild in place of injured starter Terry Caulley. Brown gained 199 yards and scored twice, including a 65-yarder. Rutgers was giving up just 78 yards per game rushing coming into the game and likely expected a light workout with Caulley nursing an ankle injury that kept him on the sideline.
Rutgers is off this week getting ready for next Thursday's visit from No. 5 Louisville, which faces West Virginia Thursday. Rutgers is adding more seats to the home field for the Louisville game and the regular-season finale against Syracuse.
Sunday night's game, which was attended by a large group of potential recruits who stood on the sideline, drew 41,077, the sixth-largest crowd in Rutgers history.
Notes and Quotes
GAME BALL GOES TO: DE Jamaal Westerman - All he did was force a fumble, bat down a pass, block a punt that became a Quintero Frierson touchdown, and take part in six tackles, including 2 1/2 sacks.
KEEP AN EYE ON: QB Mike Teel - He came out on fire Sunday night, but then cooled off, and it was clear part of his problem remains the receivers not doing their part.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They packed the box. They did a great job. I'm just happy we came out with a win. That's the biggest thing: we're 8-0." - Rutgers RB Ray Rice after being held to 79 yards by UConn Sunday night.
Strategy and Personnel
LOOKING GOOD: The Rutgers' defense and special teams again came through in Sunday night's win over UConn. The defense scored its fourth touchdown of the year after a fumble and the special teams tallied when Jamaal Westerman blocked a punt and Quintero Frierson fell on it in the end zone for the clinching TD. It was the second time this season Rutgers had defensive and special teams TDs in the same game.
FB Brian Leonard - With so much of the focus on Ray Rice, the senior fullback was used a bit more, running for 35 yards on seven carries and catching three passes, for 31 yards. His first catch gave him the Rutgers reception record (193) and also extended his new Big East record for catching a pass in his 42nd straight game.
WR Kenny Britt - The freshman caught the first two passes of his college career.
QB Mike Teel - Say what you want, all the kid does is win. After going 23-0 as a starter in high school, he's 10-1 as a starter in college.
K Jeremy Ito - His 51-yard field goal Sunday night, his second-longest of the season, was the 46th FG of his career, tying the school record set by Kennan Startzell in 1979.
DB Courtney Green - He led all tacklers Sunday night with 11.
STILL NEEDS WORK: The relationship between quarterback Mike Teel and his wide receivers. There are still plays that have to be made to make Teel's numbers better. He threw the ball well Sunday night and could have had more than just 11 for 24 passing. The Rutgers rushing defense, No. 12 in the country coming in, was torched for a 200-yard game by freshman RB Donald Brown Sunday night.
ROSTER REPORT: Ray Rice was still in the game with the Knights running out the clock and he had his left leg twisted under a big body late in the fourth quarter but he did walk off the field without much of a problem and appears to be OK.
Leonard is one of 17 finalists for the Draddy Trophy, which goes to the nation's top football scholar-athlete, who is also involved with the community. Meanwhile, the Maxwell semifinalists came out and Rice is one of two sophomores up for the Maxwell, while Rutgers coach Greg Schiano is a candidate for the George Munger National Coach of the Year award.