HOUSTON (AP)—Like a true Texas hero, Ray Rice donned a white cowboy hat after leading Rutgers to one more milestone victory.
Rice ran for 170 yards and a touchdown, Tim Brown caught two TD passes and the 16th-ranked Scarlet Knights won a bowl game for the first time Thursday night, beating Kansas State 37-10 in the Texas Bowl.
“We’ve tasted it, tasted the water and it’s a great feeling,” said Rice, selected the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Linebacker Quintero Frierson returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage of the second half and Rutgers (11-2) cruised from there, earning an 11th victory for the second time in 137 mostly forgettable seasons.
“To win the first bowl game after 137 years of playing, to say we’re excited would be an understatement,” Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said.
Rice topped 100 yards for the 10th time this season and the 15th time in 25 career games. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound sophomore went over 150 yards for the fifth time this season.
The Scarlet Knights’ seventh-ranked defense manhandled Kansas State’s offense, holding the Wildcats to 162 total yards and six first downs. Freshman quarterback Josh Freeman was 10-for-21 for 129 yards with two interceptions.
Kansas State (7-6) mustered only 85 yards after Frierson’s return of Freeman’s first interception put Rutgers up 24-10 just 33 seconds out of halftime.
“The defensive play there was critical,” Kansas State coach Ron Prince said. “To have the opportunity to come out and tie the game at the start of the second half and the worst thing that could happen would be a turnover and a touchdown and that’s what occurred.”
The Wildcats’ only touchdown came on Yamon Figurs’ 76-yard punt return with 9:37 left in the second quarter.
The Scarlet Knights dropped two of their last three games after a 9-0 start. Their 41-39 triple-overtime loss to West Virginia cost them the Big East’s automatic berth in the Bowl Championship Series.
The players admitted that making the Texas Bowl was a letdown after they came so close to one of the big-money bowls. But once the disappointment wore off, the Knights said they rallied around the chance to earn the school’s first bowl victory after going 1-11 just four seasons ago.
“It certainly hurt quite a bit after the West Virginia game,” Schiano said. “But when you’ve only been to three bowl games in 137 years, it’s exciting. The chance to win 11 games, that’s something our seniors will carry forever.”
They looked like the more motivated team from the start Thursday, jumping to a 14-0 lead in the first 12 minutes.
Brown caught a pass from Mike Teel down the line of scrimmage and weaved 25 yards to the end zone for the game’s first score.
Rice had a 24-yard run on Rutgers’ next possession and Teel found Brown deep down the sideline for a 14-0 lead. Brown, a freshman from Miami, had only four catches and one TD reception coming into the game.
Rutgers outscored its opponents 103-28 in the first quarter this season.
On the first play of the second quarter, Freeman found Jordy Nelson on a crossing route for a 33-yard gain to set up Jeff Snodgrass’ 44-yard field goal.
Four minutes later, Figurs took Joe Radigan’s punt up the middle, sidestepped Radigan and scored Kansas State’s seventh special-teams touchdown of the season.
Rice, the nation’s fourth-leading rusher, had 74 yards rushing at halftime to move into third place on the school’s career list.
The Wildcats’ offense had only one more yard at halftime (77) than Figurs gained on his punt return.
And then it got worse for the Wildcats.
Freeman was on the run when Frierson leaped to pick off his wobbly pass. Freeman’s 14th interception of the season was his fifth in the Wildcats’ last three games.
Rice burst through the line and ran untouched through the defense for 46 yards and his 20th touchdown of the season to make it 31-10 with 11:41 left in the third quarter, and that was more than enough for Rutgers.
The Wildcats’ offense did nothing after that, failing to get a first down for the rest of the third quarter. Freshman Leon Patton, Kansas State’s leading rusher, fumbled at the Wildcats’ 22 near the end of the quarter, setting up the second of Jeremy Ito’s three field goals.
Teel finished 16 for 28 for 268 yards without an interception. Brown had four catches for 101 yards and Clark Harris made seven catches for 120.
Kansas State was playing in a bowl for the 12th time in 14 seasons, but for the first time since the Fiesta Bowl following the 2003 season. The Wildcats dropped to 6-6 in those dozen.
“I think they were really hungry because they felt like they got left out of a BCS game,” Freeman said of Rutgers. “They were out there to prove something and we weren’t able to respond.”