PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers' football team is bowl bound for
the first time in 27 years.
Officials of the Insight Bowl and Rutgers on Monday announced
the university's acceptance of an invitation to play in the Dec. 27
game in Phoenix, a welcome conclusion to the Scarlet Knights' first
winning season since 1992.
"They've had a great season. It's a great story," said Insight
Bowl spokesman Shawn Schoeffler.
The last time Rutgers played a bowl game, Jimmy Carter was
president and Reggie Jackson played for the Yankees. The Scarlet
Knights will face Arizona State, the same opponent they faced in
1978. Rutgers lost that game 34-18.
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said that going to a bowl game was
but one more step toward his goal of creating a national-caliber
team that people in the New York metropolitan and New Jersey region
can root for.
"There's a lot of people in this area that are looking for a
team they could call their own. And that has been our goal,"
Schiano told a packed news conference Monday.
While even Schiano allowed that he wanted the team to have some
fun in Arizona, players vowed that they were going to work hard to
"We've made history, but we need to make history again," said
senior defensive end Val Barnaby. "This is a business trip we have
down to Arizona."
Senior linebacker and team captain William Gilkison said he
always believed the team's hard work would eventually pay off with
a bowl berth.
"It means a lot to get this team to this level of
competition," he said.
Reversing its reputation as an East Coast football
laughingstock, Rutgers won seven games this season, virtually
ensuring a bowl invitation with a 44-9 thrashing of Big East rival
Cincinnati on Saturday.
Brian Leonard and Ray Rice each ran for two touchdowns as the
Scarlet Knights (7-4, 4-3 Big East) rushed for a season-high 337
yards. On defense, they sacked Bearcats quarterback Dustin Grutza
nine times and held Cincinnati (4-7, 2-5) to minus-23 yards rushing
and 146 yards overall.
It was not long ago that a bowl bid would have been considered a
pipe dream for a program that now has had only four winning seasons
since 1984 and lost 25 straight games in the Big East from
The Scarlet Knights became bowl-eligible on Oct. 29 when they
beat Navy, but then stumbled badly in losses to South Florida and
Louisville before the win over Cincinnati.