The Big East got off to a strong start in the bowl season, as Rutgers kicked things off Saturday with a 45-24 win over Central Florida.
On Friday, I offered three keys to the game for the Scarlet Knights: develop some type of running threat even if it is Mohamed Sanu in the Wildcat, stop UCF running back Brynn Harvey and come up with a play or two on special teams.
While Rutgers had only 86 yards rushing, Sanu ran for two touchdowns out of the Wildcat. It was enough to keep the UCF defense off balance, and Tom Savage threw for 294 yards. Harvey, who was the Knights' top weapon, had only 32 yards on 13 carries as Rutgers allowed only 35 yards rushing the entire game.
As for special teams, Damaso Munoz scored off an onside kick return, though the game was well in hand at that point. Rutgers gave up some serious yards on kick returns and Sanu muffed a punt.
I thought it might be a low-scoring game, but I was way off about that. The Scarlet Knights got key contributions from injured receiver Tim Brown (four catches, 100 yards and a 65-yard score) and scored on an interception return by Billy Anderson just before the half. That and Munoz's touchdown gave Rutgers nine non-offensive scores on the season. The offensive line, which had disappointed much of the year, turned in a strong performance to keep Savage clean.
It was the fifth straight bowl appearance and fourth consecutive postseason victory for the Scarlet Knights, who now need to build on this win with Sanu and Savage returning for their sophomore years. The team needs to avoid the slow starts in 2010 that have plagued them in recent years.
The program will lose some significant players, including Brown, center Ryan Blaszczyk, defensive end George Johnson, linebacker Ryan D'Imperio, cornerback Devin McCourty and left tackle Anthony Davis, who has called a news conference for Tuesday to announce his intentions to leave for the NFL draft.
But the departing seniors see a bright future for Rutgers, Tom Luicci writes in The Star-Ledger.
“You need to be consistent before you can be great," head coach Greg Schiano said. "We’re going to be great someday ... someday soon."