Mohamed Sanu received St. Petersburg Bowl Most Outstanding Player honors.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (December 19, 2009) – Rutgers (9-4, 3-4 BIG EAST) capped off its fifth-straight bowl appearance with its fourth-consecutive bowl victory, defeating Central Florida 45-24 in the 2009 St. Petersburg Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 19 at Tropicana Field.
The Scarlet Knights showed a great display of balance in all three phases of the game, recording touchdowns on offensive, defensive and special teams. RU ended the night with two rushing touchdowns, two passing touchdowns, one interception and one kickoff returned for scores.
Rutgers gained 380 yards of total offense behind a career passing day from freshman quarterback Tom Savage (Springfield, Pa.), who completed 14-of-27 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns. Fellow true freshman Mohamed Sanu (South Brunswick, N.J.) also enjoyed a career-best evening as he accounted for three of RU’s five touchdowns. Sanu had 13 carries for 41 yards and a pair of touchdowns, in addition to catching four passes for 97 yards and a TD.
For his performance Sanu was awarded the Most Outstanding Player trophy, joining past bowl honorees Ray Rice (2006 Texas Bowl, 2008 International Bowl) and Mike Teel (2008 PapaJohns.com Bowl).
Senior wide receiver Tim Brown (Miami, Fla.) put an end to his stellar Rutgers career with four catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. The score added to his school record total of 20 touchdowns all-time. He also finished fourth in the record books with 2,257 receiving yards on 114 receptions. Brown’s single-season receiving total of 1,150 yards in 2009 was also the third-best mark in school history.
Defensively, true freshman linebacker Steve Beauharnais (Saddle Brook, N.J.) shined for the Scarlet Knights, finishing the day with a game-best six tackles (2.0 for loss), including two sacks (ties RU bowl record). Rutgers had six sacks on the night, tying its bowl record which was set in 2008 against Ball State in the International Bowl.
UCF won the toss and chose to receive at the start of the game. Quincy McDuffie returned the opening kickoff 64-yard, putting the ball in Rutgers territory on the 31-yard line. Central Florida then went three plays before possession was reversed on an interception by senior linebacker Damaso Munoz (Miami, Fla.). Munoz took his second pick of the season (third career) 26 yards across midfield to set RU’s first score.
Rutgers answered with its first points of the game, going 48 yards on eight plays in 4:48. Sanu capped the drive with a five-yard touchdown run, his fourth of the year to give the Scarlet Knights a 7-0 lead. Savage completed 2-of-2 passes for 23 yards on the drive, including a 20-yard connection to Brown. Sanu rushed three times for 23 yards in the wildcat formation.
A special teams miscue led to UCF’s first points of the game as it recovered a muffed punt on the RU nine-yard line. The Knights went three plays, ending with a TD pass from Brett Hodges to Kamar Aiken to tie the contest at 7-7.
The Scarlet Knights showed their quick-strike ability, setting Rutgers and St. Petersburg Bowl records for the longest scoring drive, going 80 yards on the just two plays in 30 seconds to pull ahead 14-7. From the 20-yard line, sophomore running back Joe Martinek (Hopatcong, N.J.) broke off a 15 yard run, followed by a 65-yard pitch and catch from Savage to Brown. The reception was the longest in St. Petersburg Bowl history and also topped Rutgers’ previous bowl record, a 49-yard completion from Mike Teel to Brown vs. Kansas State in the 2006 Texas Bowl.
UCF closed the gap to four points (14-10) in its next possession with a 25-yard successful field goal try by Nick Cattoi at the start of the second quarter.
Sanu rushed for his second touchdown of the game and fifth of the season, increasing the Scarlet Knights’ lead to 21-10 at the 5:50 mark in the second quarter, capping off an 11-play 58 yard drive that elapsed 5:58. Rutgers was a perfect 3-for-3 on third down conversions during the drive as Savage completed passes of 10, 16 and 17 yards to freshman wide receiver Mark Harrison (Stratford, Conn.), Sanu and tight end Shamar Graves (Woodbridge, N.J.), respectively. Savage completed a total of four passes for 48 yards, to help move the Rutgers offense.
The Scarlet Knights got out to an 11-point lead (28-17) in the closing seconds of the second quarter on a 19-yard interception returned for a touchdown by senior cornerback Billy Anderson (West Orange, N.J.). It was Anderson’s second pick of the season and the fourth time in 2009 that Rutgers returned an interception to the end zone. The INT by Anderson led to the first defensive score in St. Petersburg Bowl history.
Rutgers scored on its first possession of the second half, opening an 18-point advantage. Freshman defensive back Brandon Jones (Sicklerville, N.J.) returned the kickoff 22 yards out to the RU 27-yard line. The Scarlet Knights then broke off a 4-play, 73 yard drive, ending in another Sanu touchdown, his third of the game. Savage completed a 61 yard pass to Sanu to take Rutgers into UCF territory. Martinek followed with a pair of carries before Savage would again connect with Sanu, this time on an 11-yard TD pass, his third scoring catch of the season.
The Scarlet Knights tacked on three more points at the 8:09 mark in the third quarter on a 43-yard field goal by sophomore placekicker San San Te (Conover, N.C.), as RU pulled away 38-17.
UCF added a rushing touchdown by Jonathan Davis in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter to make it 38-24 on the scoreboard.
The Knights attempted an onside kick following their touchdown score, but the resulting play was a 35-yard kickoff return for touchdown by Munoz. It marked the ninth special teams/defensive touchdown for the Scarlet Knights as Rutgers won the 2009 St. Petersburg Bowl 45-24.
The win against UCF improved the Scarlet Knights’ overall record to 9-4 in 2009, marking the second nine-win season (the first in 2006, 11-2) during head coach Greg Schiano’s nine-year tenure. It is also the sixth nine-win season in 140 years of football at Rutgers University.
POST GAME NOTES
With the 45-24 victory over UCF in the St. Petersburg Bowl, Rutgers has won four consecutive bowl games. The Scarlet Knights have played in five straight bowls.
With the win, the Scarlet Knights completed the 2009 season 9-4 overall, giving Rutgers its sixth nine-win season in school history (140 years). It is the second in the nine-year Greg Schiano era (finished 11-2 in 2006).
The senior class finished their careers with 36 victories – tied with the 1979 senior class for the second most wins in school history.
Rutgers has averaged nine wins per season over the previous four seasons.
Senior DB Billy Anderson’s (West Orange, N.J.) second-quarter interception was Rutgers’ fourth interception returned for a touchdown this season.
Here is a list of RU’s four interceptions returned for a touchdown in 2009
Interception By Opponent Yards Returned For Touchdown
Ryan D’Imperio FIU 38
Antonio Lowery Maryland 36
David Rowe Texas Southern 56
Billy Anderson UCF 19
The following bowl records were set by Rutgers vs. UCF in the 2009 St. Petersburg Bowl:
Category Total Previous Record
Sacks 6 3 vs. Arizona State/Kansas State (1978 Garden State Bowl/2006 Texas Bowl)
Longest Reception 65 (Tom Savage to Tim Brown) 49 (Mike Teel to Tim Brown, 2006 Texas Bowl)
Sacks By 2.0 2.0, two previous times, most recently Jamaal Westerman (2006 Texas Bowl)
Senior LB Damaso Munoz (Miami, Fla.) returned a fourth-quarter onside kick 35 yards for a touchdown. It was the third kickoff return for a touchdown for the Scarlet Knights this season.
With the interception and kickoff return for a touchdown, Rutgers finished the season with nine defensive/special teams – the most in the Greg Schiano era. The previous high in a season under Schiano was seven (2003).
The 65-yard touchdown from Tom Savage to Tim Brown was the longest pass play in Rutgers’ bowl history. The previous longest pass play was a 49-yard completion from Mike Teel to Tim Brown in the Texas Bowl against Kansas State on Dec. 28, 2006. It was also the longest pass play in St. Petersburg Bowl history.
With two interceptions in the St. Petersburg Bowl, Rutgers finished the season with 15 interceptions on the year. The 15 interceptions in 2009 are tied for the most in the nine-year Greg Schiano era. The 2006 team also had 15 INTs. It was the fifth time this season RU had multiple picks in a game.
Rutgers tied a season-high with 45 points scored in the win over UCF. The Scarlet Knights also scored 45 points in the Howard victory.
In the five bowl games of the Greg Schiano era, Rutgers has averaged 40.6 points per game. Schiano is 4-1 in bowl games as a head coach.
Bowl RU Points
2005 Insight Bowl vs. Arizona State 40
2006 Texas Bowl vs. Kansas State 37
2008 International Bowl vs. Ball State 52
2008 PapaJohns.com Bowl vs. NC State 29
2009 St. Petersburg Bowl vs. UCF 45
The Rutgers defense had had six sacks in the St. Petersburg Bowl against UCF. In RU’s five bowl games in the Greg Schiano era, the Scarlet Knights have totaled 17sacks, including a high of six in the 2008 International Bowl against Ball State and the six tonight vs. UCF.
Rutgers entered the game as the NCAA leader in turnover margin and finished the season +20 in turnover differential. Over the last 20 games, Rutgers is 16-4 and +28 in turnover differential.
In its last two games in the 2009 season, the Rutgers defense limited the opposition to 9-of-41 on third down conversions.
Rutgers held UCF to 255 yards of total offense, including just 35 yards rushing. Rutgers held eight opponents under 300 yards of total offense in 2009.
Rutgers’ eight-play, 48-yard touchdown drive on its opening drive of the game gave the Scarlet Knights a touchdown on the opening drive in four of its last five bowl games. It was the third-straight bowl game the Scarlet Knights have scored on their opening drive.
It was also the eighth time this season RU has scored on its opening drive of the game and sixth touchdown on its opening drive of the contest in 2009.
Opponent Scoring Drive
Howard Field Goal
West Virginia Field Goal
True freshman WR Mohamed Sanu (South Brunswick, N.J.) finished the game with 133 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns en route to St. Petersburg Bowl Most Outstanding Player honors. He had 97 receiving yards and 41 rushing yards. The three touchdowns is a career-high for Sanu in a game.
Sanu scored Rutgers’ first touchdown of the game with a five-yard run out of the wildcat in the first quarter. Sanu also had a one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The pair of rushing touchdowns tied his career-high. He also had two rushing TDs at Louisville earlier this season.
Sanu finished the season second on the team in receiving (3), rushing (5) and passing (1) touchdowns.
True freshman QB Tom Savage (Springfield, Pa.) finished 14-of-27 passing for a career-high 294 yards and two touchdowns. He finished the season 2,211 passing yards and 14 touchdown passes. He finished sixth in Rutgers single-season history with the 2,211 passing yards.
Savage threw for the most yards by a true freshman in BIG EAST single-season history with 2,211 passing yards in 2009. Savage is second in BIG EAST single-season history in passing yards by a freshman (including redshirt freshmen).
BIG EAST Freshman Single-Season Passing Yardage History (including redshirt freshmen)
Player, School Year C-A-I Yards TD
Matt Grothe, USF* 2006 202-317-14 2,576 15
Tom Savage, Rutgers 2009 149-285-7 2,211 14
Donovan McNabb, Syracuse* 1995 128-207-6 1,991 16
Michael Vick, Virginia Tech* 1999 90-152-5 1,840 12
*Denotes Redshirt Freshman
Senior WR Tim Brown (Miami, Fla.) added to his school-record receiving touchdown total with a 65-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter of the St. Petersburg Bowl against UCF with his 20th career receiving TD. It was his ninth receiving touchdown of the season, tying him with Bob Simms (1958) for second on the RU single-season receiving touchdowns list. He finished one shy of school-record holder Marco Battaglia, who had 10 in 1995.
Brown’s 20 career touchdowns averaged 41.9 yards, while his nine touchdowns this season averaged 44.4 yards.
With the 65-yard touchdown, Brown now has four career receiving touchdowns in the four bowls he has played in.
Year Bowl Game Opponent Touchdown Yardage
2006 Texas Bowl Kansas State 14, 49
2008 International Bowl Ball State 36
2009 St. Petersburg Bowl UCF 65
Brown finished his career fourth in school history with 2,257 career receiving yards. With his 99-yard performance in the St. Petersburg Bowl against UCF, he passed Marco Battaglia (2,221/1992-95) and Andrew Baker (2,268/1981-84).
Senior LB Damaso Munoz (Miami, Fla.) recorded his second interception of the season and third of his career in the first quarter of the St. Petersburg Bowl against UCF. He returned it 26 yards to set up RU’s first score of the game. He also had one at Connecticut earlier this season.
Senior DB Billy Anderson (West Orange, N.J.) posted his second interception of the season in the St. Petersburg Bowl against UCF. It was also the second of his career. He also had an INT at Maryland this season.
With a field goal in the St. Petersburg Bowl, sophomore PK San San Te (Conover, N.C.) finished the season with 18 field goals. The total ranks fifth in school single-season history. He has 30 in his first two seasons which ranks fifth in school history. Te moved into sole possession of fifth place on both lists with the field goal in the St. Petersburg Bowl.