South Florida 45, Rutgers 31
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP)—Andre Hall ran for 168 yards and three touchdowns and South Florida scored 28 points off six Rutgers’ turnovers on the way to a 45-31 win over the Scarlet Knights on Saturday, the Bulls’ first game in 21 days.
Despite two defensive scores in the span of 1:26 in the first quarter and a 20-point lead late in the third, South Florida (4-3, 2-1 Big East) needed to hold off the Scarlet Knights at the end.
Down 37-17 late in the third quarter, Rutgers (6-3, 3-2) came back to make it 37-31 after a 1-yard touchdown run by Brian Leonard and a 4-yard scoring catch by Clark Harris. The Scarlet Knights got the ball back with 11:47 left in the game, but a fumble by quarterback Ryan Hart ended the drive. Coming into the game, Rutgers had lost one fumble all season.
Rutgers got another chance with 6:39 left after blocking a 22-yard field goal attempt by Kyle Bronson. But backup quarterback Mike Teel, in for an shaken-up Hart, threw an interception with 4:02 remaining to end the Scarlet Knights’ final chance.
The Bulls took control late in the opening quarter when Johnnie Jones picked off Hart and returned the interception 32 yards to make it 14-0. South Florida needed just 86 seconds to go up by three scores. This time, Hart fumbled after being hit by defensive end Jason Allen. Terrence Royal scooped up the ball and returned it 11 yards for a touchdown.
Royal also set up a later 2-yard touchdown run by Hall by picking off a tipped pass from Hart.
Hart finished 15-for-25 for 217 yards and three touchdowns. But he threw three costly interceptions—he became the school’s all-time leader in that category—and fumbled twice. Ray Rice rushed for 158 yards for the Scarlet Knights.
South Florida quarterback Pat Julmiste was 13-for-21 for 135 yards and ran for a 1-yard score.
It was a disheartening loss for Rutgers, which became bowl eligible for the first time since 1992 by beating Navy last week. The Scarlet Knights—long one of college football’s punching bags—were trying to start 7-2 for the first time since 1979.
South Florida hadn’t played since a 31-17 loss to Pittsburgh on Oct. 15. In the ensuing weeks, it had two scheduled byes and a game against West Virginia postponed until Dec. 3 because of Hurricane Wilma.
The Bulls certainly looked rested when the game began. After forcing the Scarlet Knights to go three and out on the game’s first drive, South Florida went 83 yards in 10 plays, taking a 7-0 lead when Hall went in from 2 yards out.
The two defensive scores then put South Florida up 21-0.