Rutgers 37, Vanderbilt 34
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—Rutgers fullback Brian Leonard missed last Saturday’s 41-31 loss to Syracuse. Saturday night against Vanderbilt, he returned in full force.
Leonard scored four touchdowns, including a one-yard run with 1:11 to play, as Rutgers erased a 27-3 second-half deficit to beat Vanderbilt 37-34.
“He’s a great player,” said Rutgers quarterback Ryan Hart. “Last week, we didn’t have him and it was a tough loss. He wanted to come back this week and prove he is for real and he had a great game. All we try to do is get our weapons the ball.”
Leonard had 15 carries for 50 yards and nine receptions for 68 yards. All four of his touchdowns came in the second half.
Hart completed 31 of 40 passes for 344 yards and two touchdowns for Rutgers (3-2). Tres Moses had 11 catches for 147 yards.
“This means a lot for our program,” Moses said. “I think a lot of people didn’t think we could do it, but we came back and today was definitely a test.”
Rutgers’ winning touchdown drive covered 68 yards on 11 plays, with Hart completing five of six passes for 50 yards.
The score was the fifth touchdown in six second-half possessions for the Scarlet Knights, who managed only three points in the first half.
“In the second half, we got more disciplined,” Hart said. “They started playing more coverage against us and didn’t do much blitzing and we took advantage of it. The running game also started clicking.”
Rutgers outscored Vanderbilt 21-0 in the fourth quarter.
“I’m very proud of our football team,” said Rutgers coach Greg Schiano. “They really showed the guts and determination I believed they had and it was very important for us as a football team and a football program to win a game like this.”
For Vanderbilt (1-4), quarterback Jay Cutler rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown and completed 14 of 18 passes for 260 yards and one touchdown.
A last gasp effort for Vanderbilt was negated when Cutler was flagged for an illegal forward pass, eliminating a 66-yard completion that would have put Vanderbilt at the Rutgers nine-yard line with 11 seconds to play.
Cutler was one yard past the line of scrimmage on the throw.
“The officials did not lose this football game for us,” Johnson said. “We should have been in command long before that.”
Vanderbilt cornerback Dominique Morris forced two turnovers and returned an interception for a touchdown in the first half.
Vanderbilt held an early 27-3 lead in the third quarter when Cutler hit Erik Davis with a 27-yard touchdown pass.
Rutgers answered quickly, however, as Leonard scored two short touchdowns in a 2:30 span to cut the lead to 27-16 in the third quarter.
Vanderbilt stretched its lead to 34-16 when Cutler scored late in the third quarter from two yards out on an option keeper.
Cutler set the score up when he hit Brandon Smith on a 71-yard pass play.
In the fourth quarter, the Scarlet Knights pulled within 34-29 when Hart hit Leonard with a nine-yard touchdown pass with 9:30 to play.
The touchdown was set up by a 27-yard fumble return by Devraun Thompson.
Rutgers is now 4-14 on the road under fourth-year coach Greg Schiano. Rutgers is 1-2 all-time vs. Vanderbilt.