Dennis Campbell on the Punt Return

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- He never saw the flag until after the play ended. However, the crowd's vociferous response discouraged Dennis Campbell and ended hopes of his punt return for a touchdown.

"I didn't see it until I gave the ball to the ref," Campbell said, referring to the flag. "I heard the crowd go, ‘Uh,' so I knew something was wrong."

Although Campbell could have yelled and screamed at the referee for throwing the flag like the Rutgers supporters did, he reacted optimistically.

"Everyone wanted to get mad at the flag," he said, "but, I couldn't really get mad because the game wasn't over yet. I'm just gonna go back there and try to return another."

The Scarlet Knights (0-1) trailed 10-0 and forced a three-and-out by Fresno St. (1-0) with under two minutes left in the third quarter. Dennis Campbell returned Robert Malone's ensuing punt 72 yards to the house, which would have reduced the gap to three, inspired the RU Faithful and motivated the offense.

On the ensuing drive, RU quarterback Mike Teel, in fact, rallied his troops for seven points, but the Bulldogs prevailed 24-7 in the regular season home opener at Rutgers Stadium.

Rutgers football coach Greg Schiano reviewed the film from that play and said the block-in-the-back penalty would not have advanced Campbell's timely eruption.

Upon learning this news, Campbell expressed frustration, but also internalized.

"It kind of is frustrating," he said. "But then again, everyone's trying to do their jobs. I can't really fault them for it. I wasn't really mad at them."

It would have been Campbell's first career return for a score. Moreover, the fourth-year junior's first career collegiate touchdown.

"I just told them, I'll get it again," Campbell said, recalling his memo to his teammates. "So the next time I get it, I'll take it to the house."

Campbell originally served as an alternate with RB/PR Mason Robinson throughout training camp, but Robinson started and nearly fumbled away two earlier chances in the game, worrying the soldout audience and earning Campbell an opportunity on special teams.

"Coach was always telling me to be ready just in case anything happens," Campbell said of Schiano. "Me and Mason returned punts in practice, so I was ready to go back there."

Schiano will likely use Campbell in the same role against the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Although an unfortunate penalty quashed Campbell's first ever touchdown via punt return, he thinks the effort sent the coaching staff an opportunistic message.

"Hopefully, it did send them a message," he said, "because I'm gonna be back there and I'm gonna try to take one back when I get the opportunity to take one back, so hopefully they read it."


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