Rutgers (8-5) intercepted N.C. State quarterbacks three times, and quarterback Mike Teel was 22-for-37 for 319 yards, two touchdowns and one interception as the Scarlet Knights won their third consecutive bowl game and N.C. State (6-7) dropped its first postseason game since 2002.
Teel hit standout wide receiver Kenny Britt on a 42-yard touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter in what would be the game-winning score, and the Knights picked off backup N.C. State quarterback Daniel Evans twice in the final quarter to secure the win.
N.C. State starting QB Russell Wilson threw for 186 and one touchdown and ran for 46 yards in the first half as the Wolfpack ran to a 17-6 lead at the break. Russell, however, was unable to play in the second half due to a sprained knee. His replacements were 5-for-16 for 82 yards and one touchdown with three picks.
The win was Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano's third in four bowl games, and it marked the first time the Scarlet Knights beat a Tom O'Brien coached team in nine attempts. It was also RU's seventh straight victory to end the 2008 season after starting 1-5.
Rutgers running back Joe Martinek ran nine times for 58 yards – all in the second half – as Rutgers stormed back to take control of the game late. N.C. State wide receiver Jarvis Williams nabbed seven catches for 126 yards.
Rutgers safety Courtney Greene drilled running back Jamelle Eugene on the first play from scrimmage, forcing a fumble that was recovered by cornerback Jason McCourty at midfield. Seven plays later, Rutgers appeared to line up for a 23-yard field goal, but holder Rob Cervini took the snap and ran the fake 6 yards for the first score of the game. The extra point was blocked, but Rutgers had a 6-0 lead with 11:47 remaining in the first period.
The Wolfpack took a 7-6 lead with an 81-yard drive that culminated in a 44-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Owen Spencer with 7:54 remaining in the first quarter. N.C. State extended its lead to 10-6 with 1:00 to go in the opening stanza when place-kicker Josh Czajkowski converted a 32-yard field goal attempt.
Rutgers drove deep into N.C. State territory late in the second quarter but came up empty when N.C. State blocked place-kicker San San Te's 30-yard field goal try with 4:38 to go in the half.
The Pack took the ensuing drive 80 yards on 13 plays and went ahead 17-6 with 38 seconds remaining in the half when running back Andre Brown plunged into the end zone on a 5-yard run. N.C. State had four plays over 10 yards on the drive, and Wilson ran for 39 yards.
Rutgers stalled at the 14-yard line on the opening drive of the third quarter and had to settle for a Te 31-yard field goal to cut the N.C. State lead to 17-9 with 10:14 remaining in the period. The Scarlet Knights converted on a fourth down and 1 on the drive and later appeared to have the ball inside the Wolfpack 10-yard line, but a holding penalty on backup center Caleb Ruch killed the drive's momentum.
Wilson was pulled at halftime with a sprained knee, yielding to backup quarterback Harrison Beck. RU linebacker Kevin Malast blocked an N.C. State punt on the Wolpack's opening drive, and Tiquan Underwood recovered the ball at the N.C. State 16-yard line. Three plays later, Teel connected on an 11-yard touchdown pass to Underwood as the Scarlet Knights pulled to within 17-16 with 6:50 to go in the third quarter.
The teams traded a pair of interceptions deep in Rutgers territory before Rutgers took its turnover to the N.C. State 10-yard line, where the Scarlet Knights stalled but took their first lead since the first half, 19-17, on a 28-yard field goal from Te early in the fourth.
Daniel Evans replaced Beck at quarterback and led the Wolfpack on a 66-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a 16-yard pass from Evans to Anthony Hill with 9:21 to go in the period. The two-point conversion failed, putting N.C. State ahead 23-19.
The Scarlet Knights needed just two plays and 65 yards to answer the Pack. Teel hit Dennis Campbell on a 23-yard corner route and connected with Britt for 42 yards as Rutgers regained the lead, 26-23, with 8:30 to go in the fourth. Following a Devin McCourty interception at the Rutgers 32 yard line, RU drove the ball to within two yards of N.C. State's end zone before Te knocked home a 24-yarder to close out the scoring.
Pizza Bowl: RU 29 - NC St. 23
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