Miraculous finish leads RU past UConn 28-24

After allowing the go-ahead touchdown with 38 seconds remaining, Rutgers responded with an 81-yard touchdown catch by Tim Brown with 22 seconds remaining to lift the Scarlet Knights past Connecticut 28-24 Saturday at Rentschler Field. Brown's best friend, was UConn cornerback Jasper Howard, who was killed two weeks ago.

EAST HARTFORD – Tim Brown's emotions wavered throughout the last two weeks, throughout Saturday's pregame and even while he was on the field.

Throughout it all, Rutgers' senior receiver found a way to deal with the death of his best friend, Connecticut's Jasper Howard, and always found a way to remain composed.

Then, after a stunning Rutgers win, in which Brown raced 81 yards for the winning touchdown with 22 seconds remaining, two weeks of emotional overload came crashing through.

As the Scarlet Knights gathered at the west end of Rentschler Field to sing the alma mater in front of the traveling fans and family members following the improbable 28-24 defeat of the Huskies on Saturday, Brown couldn't hide it anymore.

A few words into "On the Banks'' was enough. He bowed his head, and didn't pick it up again until his teammates were there to help him do so, and long after the singing concluded.

"(Brown) was pretty emotional after the game,'' Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "It was tough for him. He wasn't sure if he should go down to the funeral. He was trying to decide what to do. But we're in the thick of academics. He had a lot going on.

"He's been a little somber this week, and understandably so. Those guys were close.''

In the most enthralling Rutgers win since beating Louisville in 2006, the Scarlet Knights countered UConn's last-minute touchdown with Brown's 81-yard catch and run.

It came on Rutgers' first play from scrimmage after the Huskies took a 24-21 lead on Jordan Todman's 2-yard run around the right side on fourth down with 38 seconds left.

"Coach told me the play and I ran it,'' Todman said. "We had come too far to quit.''

Devin McCourty, who opened the game with a 98-yard kick return for a touchdown, advanced the ball to Rutgers' 19-yard line with 33 seconds remaining. With one timeout remaining, the Scarlet Knights were trying to get in range for a long game-tying field goal.

"During the huddle coach told us to stay on our chop and to keep fighting until the end,'' Rutgers linebacker Damaso Munoz said. "That showed in what we just did. We had faith the offense could do something.''

On the next play, Rutgers ran the same play it did earlier in the game, and took a chance fitting the ball into a covered Brown, who took quarterback Tom Savage's throw, stepped ahead of the defense and began a 65-yard run toward the corner of the end zone.

"I was walking along the sideline to get a better view, and once I saw him catch it, I was like, ‘Go, Tim, go!'' McCourty said. "When he first caught it, I thought the (safety) had the angle. It looked like (Brown) just erased the angle, and it was big for him because he's been very emotional all week.''

Rutgers' fastest player proved to be the fastest guy on the field as he out-ran UConn's secondary to the right corner of the end zone.

"It was like an angel was carrying me,'' said Brown, who had a 37-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. "I know (Howard) is up in heaven right now smiling at me. I've been thinking about him all week, every since I really realized he was gone. It was a hard week for me.''

Howard and Brown grew up in a rugged Miami neighborhood on Northwest 62nd street, two houses away from each other. They were best friends, worked out together in the offseason, and talked frequently during the season.

Brown wrote a tribute to Howard on his eye black before the game. Under the right eye was "RIP," and "Jazz'' was written under the left eye.

"He was a sweetheart of a guy,'' said Brown, a frequent rider on the emotional rollercoaster the last two weeks. "I have a bunch of teammates that love me, so I don't have any choice but to be happy. Tonight, or one day, I'm going to have my emotions by myself, but right now I'm going to celebrate with my team.''

Schiano said the play call was simple, and designed to get Rutgers closer for a game-tying field goal.

"We were trying to get a chunk,'' Schiano said. "It was a heckuva and catch. Savage really got that pass right in there. That window was small. Tim made a tremendous catch. There's not many guys that can outrun a secondary, but he's one of them.''

Savaged finished 13 of 24 for 236 yards and three touchdowns.

Rutgers (6-2, 1-2 Big East) moved within a win of bowl eligibility (the win against FCS Texas Southern does not count), and also won for the fifth straight time on the road.

However, it was not that simple.

The Scarlet Knights led immediately after McCourty's kickoff return, and pushed the lead to 21-10 at the half as Savage connected for second-quarter touchdowns to Brown and freshman Mark Harrison (20 yards).

Rutgers also knocked UConn quarterback Cody Endres out in the first quarter with a shoulder injury, but backup Zach Frazer filled in to complete 21 of 46 for 333 yards.

Frazer, who began the season as UConn's starter, threw three interceptions, but also connected on a 32-yard scoring pass to Marcus Easley with 10:19 to play in the fourth quarter to pull the Huskies within 21-17.

Twice, the Scarlet Knights had a chance to win the game without the benefit of Brown's heroics, but twice the Huskies converted on fourth down.

Rutgers defensive back Brandon Jones missed a tackle on Kashif Moore on a fourth-and-5, and he scampered 32 yards to Rutgers' 7-yard line. And on fourth-and-goal from the 2, Todman raced into the right corner to give the Huskies a 24-21 lead with 38 seconds left.

"I'm happy for our kids,'' Schiano said. "We came to fight, even when it didn't look so good. I'm sure it's a tough one for the other side, with everything that has gone on up here.''

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