PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) -- Freshman Jeremy Ito kicked four field
goals and Ryan Neill scored on a 31-yard interception return to
lead improving Rutgers to a 19-14 victory over Michigan State on
The win was coach Greg Schiano's biggest since coming to Rutgers
in December 2000, and it gave the Scarlet Knights renewed hope for
their first winning season since 1992.
Michigan State, which went to the Alamo Bowl last year in John
L. Smith's first season as coach, made Rutgers sweat out the final
minutes, driving to the Scarlet Knights' 25 with less than two
minutes to play.
After running out the clock, Rutgers players jumped for joy and
hundreds of fan in the stadium-record crowd of 42,612 -- which
included Rutgers alumnus and James Gandolfini, star of the HBO
series "The Sopranos" -- joined the celebration.
Ito converted from 24, 47, 23 and 42 yards in attempting a
school-record seven field goals, with the first five tries coming
on the Scarlet Knights' first five possessions.
Neill, a defensive end who missed all of last season with a knee
injury, scored with 5:10 left in the third quarter after stepping
in front of a screen pass.
Dowdell, who beat out Stephen Reaves and Drew Stanton for the
job of replacing Jeff Smoker as the Spartans' quarterback, threw
touchdown passes of 9 yards to Matt Trannon in the second quarter
and 54 yards to Knott.
The pass to a wide-open Knott cut the Scarlet Knights' lead to
19-14 with 12:41 left to play.
Despite outgaining Michigan State 273-159 and holding the ball
more than twice as long as the Spartans in the first half, Rutgers
trailed 7-6 at halftime.
Ito missed a 29-yarder on the opening series after Brian Leonard
(25 rushes for 150 yards) opened the game with 56-yard run.
Ito was way short on a 56-yard attempt on the next possession.
He finally converted from 23 yards to give Rutgers a 3-0 lead with
14:08 left in the second quarter, but then had a 24-yarder blocked
on the next possession.
The Spartans scored after the block. A 15-yard face mask penalty
against William Beckford and a 46-yard run by Jason Teague set up
the score. Cornerback Eddie Grimes missed the tackle on Trannon at
the line of scrimmage on the pass.
Ito, who added his 47-yarder with 5:08 left in the second
quarter, gave Rutgers a 9-7 lead with a 23-yarder with 9:34 left in
the third quarter. After Neill's touchdown, he added a 42-yarder.
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