Friday, September 29, 2006

Rutgers remains unbeaten

Scarlet Knights will stay ranked after a thrilling 22-20 win over South Florida
It was a tale of two players Friday night at Raymond James Stadium. Rutgers and USF got together and played one hell of an entertaining football game, and one player from each team was largely responsible for all the excitement on the field.

For the Scarlet Knights that player was soph RB Ray Rice, who is quickly making a name for himself and, dare we say it, entering the Heisman race in the process. Rice had 202 yards rushing and 2 TDs in the win, bringing his season totals to 806 yards rushing and 11 TDs. Not bad for a little guy (5'9") from the biggest school in Jersey who was basically unheard of before he started ripping off 150+yard games like it was nothing. His 44-yd romp late in the 4th with the score 22-14 appeared to be the back-breaker for the Bulls, but when the subsequent FG attempt was blocked, USF had another life.

That is when the player responsible for most of USF total yardage on the night took over and guided the Bulls on a near game-tying touchdown drive. Redshirt freshman QB Matt Grothe passed for 241 yards and ran for 69 more, accounting for 310 of USF's 347 total yards- talk about a one-man-show. But this kid is no ordinary player; he has a toughness and fearlessness rare in most athletes, let alone freshmen. After the block Grothe drove the team from their 34 to the Rutgers 16 in just over 2:00 minutes, helped along by 2 huge 15 yard penalties on the Scarlet Knights. When a USF penalty backed the Bulls up to the 16, Grothe calmly stepped up and threw a 16-yd TD pass to Ean Randolph to pull the Bulls to within 2 points, 22-20. All they needed was a 2-pt conversion and they would be headed to OT with the chance for a huge come-from behind victory against a ranked team.

Ah but it was not to be for the Bulls. Grothe's attempt at the conversion found a wide-open Amp Hill in the end zone, but it hit poor Amp in a bad spot-right between the numbers- and he bobbled and then dropped what would have been a gi-normous 2 pointer for a gritty Bulls squad that fought to stay in the game all night.

An entertaining evening at Ray Jay (wish I could have seen it firsthand) with two of college football's most exciting young players showcasing their talents in front of a national TV audience. Rutgers wins its first game as a ranked team in 30 years and at 5-0 have become a force to be reckoned with in the rebuilt super-conference that is the new Big East. Although critics are saying they have yet to play anybody good (no, USF is not good, yet), with home dates against the 2 Beasts of the East, Louisville and West Virginia, still to come they will have the opportunity to silence those critics. Until then they will fatten up on Navy and UConn, and if they get by Pitt on the road (doubtful for the OLD Rutgers, possible for Rutgers 2.0) would be 8-0 going into that date with the No. 8 Cardinals on Nov. 9th. Who would have thought that would be one of the bigger games of the year before the season started? But as long as this team has the Ray Rice wrecking ball rolling, anything's possible.

As for the Bulls, the future looks bright with Grothe at the helm. Pat Julmiste will only see the field again in mop-up or injury situations because Grothe is going to be impossible to remove since he always gives the team a chance to win, either with his arm or his legs. He's still very young and will make mistakes- he had 3 turnovers tonight (2 INTs, 1 fumble)- but he also directed 3 second half touchdown drives that allowed the Bulls to even be in the game.

Rutgers and USF- the new beasts of the Big East? Wow.

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