Road to the International Bowl

Rutgers returns to the football field after a 37-day layoff to play in the first January bowl game in school history. The Scarlet Knights (7-5) take on Ball State (7-5) out of the Mid-American Conference in the second installment of Toronto's International Bowl Jan. 5at Rogers Centre.

Rutgers came into the season with high expectations and a No. 16 preseason ranking. But thoughts of a BCS game unraveled through September and October, leaving the Knights to fight for a bowl bid at the end of the season after compiling a losing record in Big East play. Ball State was crowned the MAC West Division co-champion after compiling a 5-2 conference mark, earning the Cardinals their first bowl bid since the Las Vegas Bowl in 1996.

Rutgers is 1-2 in bowl games, winning the Texas Bowl last year for its first ever bowl championship. Ball State has never won a bowl game in five tries.


ROAD TO THE INTERNATIONAL BOWL

Here's a quick breakdown of how each team got to the International Bowl.

Ball State

The Cardinals got off to a slow start, dropping a 14-13 decision to MAC rival Miami in the opening game. But BSU recovered to run off three wins in its next four games. The season turning point occurred during that stretch in a 34-31 victory at Navy on Sept. 15.

It was a see-saw game with more than 1,000 yards of combined offense, and it featured a gutty effort where Ball State never folded. BSU led early, but Navy took the advantage in the third quarter. Each time the Midshipmen scored a field goal or touchdown, Ball State answered in kind. Finally, the Cardinals won the game on a Jake Hogue 24-yard field goal in overtime.

The following week, BSU had a chance to beat Nebraska on the road but came up empty on its final drive to fall 41-40 to the Cornhuskers to fall to 2-2 on the season. After an impressive 49-14 win over Buffalo, the Cardinals dropped their only MAC West game in a 58-38 defeat to Central Michigan. It would be Ball State's final conference loss of the season, as BSU rattled off victories in its final five conference tilts.

Pairs of wins over Western Kentucky and Western Michigan were followed by consecutive defeats to Big Ten opponents Illinois and Indiana, both on the road on Oct. 27 and Nov. 3, respectively. Ball State led in both games, including a 10-7 halftime lead against Illinois.

At 5-5, Ball State needed to win its last two regular season games to qualify for the postseason. The Cardinals rallied from a 17-7 hole to defeat Toledo 40-21 on Nov. 13 and held off a late charge by Northern Illinois in the season finale to secure a 27-21 victory and BSU's first bowl berth in 11 years.


Ball State tale of the tape:
Location: Muncie, Ind.
Nickname: Cardinals
Conference: Mid-American
Head coach: Brady Hoke (fifth season; 22-36)
Record: 7-5, 5-2 MAC (4-1 MAC West Division)
Key wins: at Navy (34-31 in OT); at Western Michigan (27-23)
Key losses: vs. Miami (Ohio) 14-13; at Nebraska (41-40)
Aug./Sept. record: 3-2
Oct. record: 2-2
Nov. record: 2-1
Record vs. bowl teams: 1-3
Leading passer: Nate Davis (245-429 [57.1 %], 3,376 yards, 27 TDs, 6 INTs, 281.3 ypg)
Leading rusher: Frank Edmonds (138 rushes, 526 yards, 6 TDs, 43.8 ypg)
Leading receiver: Dante Love (87 catches, 1,229 yards, 9 TDs, 102.4 ypg)
Offensive yards per game:431.7 (30th nationally)
Passing offense: 284.4 (22)
Rushing offense: 147.3 (65)
Scoring offense: 31.6 (38)
Defensive yards per game: 418.8 (88)
Passing defense: 221.8 (50)
Rushing defense: 197 (99)
Scoring defense: 26.3 (57)
Turnover ratio: plus 1.42 per game (2)
Sacks: 21 (T-80)
Sacks allowed:20 (T-40)

Ball State (7-5, 5-2 MAC)


Aug. 30 . . . vs. MIAMI (OHIO)* . . . . . . . . . . L 13-14 (0-1, 0-1)
Sept. 8 . . . . at Eastern Michigan* . . . . . . . . W 38-16 (1-1, 1-1)
Sept. 15 . . . at Navy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . W 34-31, OT (2-1, 1-1)
Sept. 22 . . . at No. 22 Nebraska . . . . . . . . . . .L 40-41 (2-2, 1-1)
Sept. 29 . . . vs. BUFFALO* . . . . . . . . . . . . . W 49-14 (3-2, 2-1)
Oct. 6 . . . . . vs. CENTRAL MICHIGAN* . . . L 38-58 (3-3, 2-2)
Oct. 13 . . . . vs. WESTERN KENTUCKY . . . W 35-12 (4-3, 2-2)
Oct. 20 . . . . at Western Michigan* . . . . . . . W 27-23 (5-3, 3-2)
Oct. 27 . . . . at Illinois . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . L 28-17 (5-4, 3-2)
Nov. 3 . . . . at Indiana . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . L 38-20 (5-5, 3-2)
Nov. 13 . . . vs. TOLEDO * . . . . . . . . . . . . . . W 41-20 (6-5, 4-2)
Nov. 24 . . . at Northern Illinois* . . . . . . . . . W 27-21 (7-5, 5-2)
* Mid-American Conference game

Rutgers

The Scarlet Knights started quickly out of the gate, pounding Buffalo and Norfolk State and winning comfortably against Navy to run out to a 3-0 record and No. 10 ranking. Then Maryland came to town and began to dismantle RU's season with a 34-24 decision in which the Terrapins physically beat the Scarlet Knights up and down the field.

The following week Rutgers fell out of the top 25 for the first time in a year when Cincinnati upended the Scarlet Knights 28-23. The loss featured perhaps the key moment in the season. Rutgers was driving late in the game for the winning drive when quarterback Mike Teel threw an interception that sealed UC's victory. Teel reportedly injured his throwing hand in the contest and has dealt with the fallout the entire season.

RU got back on track with a couple of Big East victories, including a 30-27 decision against then-No. 2 South Florida on Oct. 18. Those wins were followed by ugly losses at home to West Virginia, 31-3, and on the road at Connecticut, 38-19.

Like Ball State, Rutgers was struggling to make the bowl lineup at 5-4 late in the season. An easy win against Army was followed by a nail biter in a 20-16 victory against Pittsburgh. Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty intercepted a Pat Bostick pass in the end zone to secure the win and send RU to a bowl game.

The Scarlet Knights appeared to be headed to an 8-4 regular season mark with a big lead at Louisville in the finale. However, RU imploded as Louisville erased an 18-point second-half deficit as the Cardinals notched a 41-38 win.


Rutgers tale of the tape:
Location: New Brunswick, N.J.
Nickname: Scarlet Knights
Conference: Big East
Head coach: Greg Schiano (seventh season, 37-46)
Record: 7-5, 3-4 Big East
Key wins: vs. No. 2 South Florida (30-27); vs. Pittsburgh (20-16)
Key losses: vs. 23 Cincinnati (28-23); at No. 16 UConn (38-19)
Aug./Sept. record: 3-1
Oct. record: 2-2
Nov. record: 2-2
Record vs. bowl teams: 2-4
Leading passer: Nate Davis (245-429 [57.1 %], 3,376 yards, 27 TDs, 6 INTs, 281.3 ypg)
Leading rusher: Frank Edmonds (138 rushes, 526 yards, 6 TDs, 43.8 ypg)
Leading receiver: Dante Love (87 catches, 1,229 yards, 9 TDs, 102.4 ypg)
Offensive yards per game:437.2 (26th nationally)
Passing offense: 247 (43)
Rushing offense: 190.2 (31)
Scoring offense: 31.2 (42)
Defensive yards per game: 316.5 (13)
Passing defense: 160.6 (2)
Rushing defense: 155.9 (62)
Scoring defense: 21.8 (29)
Turnover ratio: minus .5 per game (T-93)
Sacks: 35 (T-18)
Sacks allowed: 9 (2)


Rutgers (7-5, 3-4 Big East)


Aug. 30 . . . vs. BUFFALO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .W 38-3 (1-0, 0-0)
Sept. 7 . . . . vs. NAVY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . W 41-24 (2-0, 0-0)
Sept. 15 . . . vs. NORFOLK STATE . . . . . . . . W 59-0 (3-0, 0-0)
Sept. 29 . . . vs. MARYLAND . . . . . . . . . . . . . L 24-24 (3-1, 0-0)
Oct. 6 . . . . . vs. No. 20 CINCINNATI* . . . . . L 23-28 (3-2, 0-1)
Oct. 13 . . . . at Syracuse* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . W 38-14 (4-2, 1-1)
Oct. 18 . . . . vs. No. 2 SOUTH FLORIDA* . W 30-27 (5-2, 2-1)
Oct. 27 . . . . vs. No. 6 WEST VIRGINIA* . . . L 3-31 (5-3, 2-2)
Nov. 3 . . . . at No. 16 UConn* . . . . . . . . . . L 19-38 (5-4, 2-3)
Nov. 9 . . . . at Army . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .W 41-6 (6-4, 2-3)
Nov. 17 . . . vs. PITTSBURGH * . . . . . . . . W 20-16 (7-4, 3-3)
Nov. 29 . . . at Louisville* . . . . . . . . . . . . . .L 38-41 (7-5, 3-4)
* Big East game

COMMON OPPONENTS

Rutgers and Ball State have two common opponents this season: Buffalo and Navy.

Buffalo:
Rutgers manhandled Buffalo 38-3 on Aug. 30 in the season opener and put up 563 yards of total offense. Running back Ray Rice rushed for 184 and three touchdowns, and receiver Tiquan Underwood set a school record with 248 yards receiving to go along with two touchdown receptions.

Ball State had little trouble with Buffalo in a 49-14 victory against the Bulls on Sept. 29. The Cardinals amassed more than 500 yards of total offense and scored seven touchdowns. Running back Frank Edmonds scored two touchdowns and ran for 126 yards in his first collegiate start.

Navy:
RU faced Navy in a Friday tilt on Sept. 9 and got up big but failed to put the Midshipmen away until the fourth quarter. Rice became Rutgers' all-time leading rusher in the game and put up 175 yards and three touchdowns (one receiving). The Scarlet Knights relied on end zone interceptions from safeties Ron Girault and Courtney Greene to keep Navy at bay.

I have detailed the Ball State-Navy matchup in a previous section. The Cardinals outlasted the Mids in a game that featured 11 ties or lead changes. Running back MiQuale Lewis had 161 yards and quarterback Nate Davis threw three touchdown passes.


BOWL HISTORY

Ball State (0-4-1)


1996 Las Vegas Bowl
Nevada 18, Ball State 15
Final record: 8-4

1993 Las Vegas Bowl
Utah State 42, Ball State 33
Final record: 8-3-1

1989 California Raisin Bowl (San Jose, Calif.)
Fresno State 27, Ball State 6
Final record: 7-3-2

1967 Grantland Rice Bowl (Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
Eastern Kentucky 27, Ball State 13
Final record: 7-3

1965 Grantland Rice Bowl (Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
Ball State 14, Tennessee State 14
Final record: 9-0-1

Rutgers (1-2)


1978 Garden State Bowl (East Rutherford, N.J.)
Arizona State 34, Rutgers 18
Final record: 9-3

2005 Insight Bowl (Phoenix, Ariz.)
Arizona State 45, Rutgers 40
Final record: 7-5

2006 Texas Bowl (Houston)
Rutgers 37, Kansas State 10
Final record: 11-2


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