Rutgers falters, falls to Va. Tech in Russell Bowl
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Rutgers' regular-season ended with the Scarlet Knights thinking about what might have been after they lost a BCS bowl berth with consecutive losses.
They will have to have to wait a little longer to completely wash away that bitter feeling.
On Friday night in the Russell Athletic Bowl, Rutgers dominated the first half defensively, only to see its offense wilt down the stretch as a late turnover and missed field goal cost it in a 13-10 overtime loss to Virginia Tech.
The loss ended a run of five straight bowl victories for the Scarlet Knights and kept them from recording their first double-digit win season since 2006.
"Two tremendous defensive performances, and one of the better defensive performances I've seen from Rutgers players this season," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said. "It's unfortunate that we came out on the wrong side of the game, and squander that kind of performance as a result."
Virginia Tech's Cody Journell kicked a 22-yard field goal on the first possession of overtime.
Rutgers (9-4) had a chance to tie it, but Nick Borgese missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt to the right.
"It's frustrating just because of the type of competitor I am," Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene said. "That this defense is and this team is in general. We go out every day to compete, and it's to win. But it's just something we have to learn from."
Virginia Tech (7-6) won its third straight game to avoid its first losing season since 1992.
"Not everything in life is real smooth," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. "These players worked hard and how they reacted to adversity and to disappointment and when all of them wanted to do better - they kept together."
The Hokies trailed 10-0 at the half, then rallied in the final 30 minutes thanks to some timely turnovers and offense. Quarterback Logan Thomas struggled in the first and finished with a pair of interceptions, but also had 192 yards passing and the game's only passing touchdown.
The win also was the Hokies' 12th straight victory over their former Big East Conference rival.
"I can't commend the defense more," Thomas said. "The entire season that's kind of how it's been. I have to give a shout out to (linebacker) Bruce Taylor because he played his tail off the entire game. It felt like he was in the backfield making a tackle on every play."
Rutgers seemed to be in command until the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, when turnovers and a sudden surge from the Hokies' offense quickly turned the momentum.
Down 10-0, Virginia Tech took over after Rutgers missed field goal and moved into Scarlet Knights' territory for the first time in the game on a 32-yard pass from Thomas to Dyrell Roberts.
Thomas then found Corey Fuller for a 25-yard strike on the next play, before the drive stalled on the 8. It forced the Hokies to settle for Journell's 25-yard field goal.
Exum intercepted Nova's pass on the ensuing drive, giving the Hokies a first down on the Rutgers 21.
The Hokies found the end zone three plays later on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to Fuller with 10:56 left as steady rain began to fall.
Virginia Tech defensive end Tyrel Wilson then came up with the defense's second turnover of the night, recovering a fumble inside the Scarlet Knights 40 after Nova dropped a snap while lined up in the shotgun.
An intentional grounding penalty on Thomas forced a punt, though, with less than 7 minutes to play.
They got another chance a few series later, only to see Journell's 51-yard field goal come up short with 2:20 showing on the clock.
Rutgers punted, but got it back just a play later when Thomas' pass was intercepted by Brandon Jones.
The Scarlet Knights came into game ranked 14th in the nation in total defense, surrendering 321.25 yards per game.
It was defense on both sides that controlled the action in the first half as Rutgers took a 10-0 halftime lead.
The Scarlet Knights were the most effective offensively, managing a modest seven first downs and a field goal. But the Scarlet Knights came up empty on their best drive of the half, failing to convert on a fourth down pass play inside the Hokies 35.
Virginia Tech struggled throughout, though, tallying only 73 yards total in the first two quarters. Thomas was also sacked twice and intercepted late in the half, which severely hampered an offense that never made it into Rutgers' territory.
Penalties also bent in Rutgers' favor. Virginia Tech was penalized eight times for 60 yards. The Scarlet Knights weren't whistled for any penalties in the half.
A miscue by Virginia Tech on the opening drive of the game produced the game's first score.
Hokies center Caleb Farris sent his second snap of the night sailing past Thomas and into the end zone.
Thomas scrambled back to pick it up, and tried to run it out, but he was instantly swarmed and lost the ball as he was tackled. It was eventually recovered by Greene for the touchdown.
Notes: The game was the lowest scoring the bowl's history. It surpassed Stanford's 24-3 win over Penn State in 1993. ...The game also set a bowl record with 20 punts, passing the previous record of 19 in the 1991 matchup between Alabama and Colorado.
Updated December 28, 2012