Rutgers quarterback Chas Dodd fades back and looks to throw Saturday as blocker David Osei tries to protect him from North Carolina's charging defensive tackle Sylvester Williams. Dodd finished the day 25-for-47 for 243 yards and two passing touchdowns.
Rutgers receiver Mohamed Sanu (in white) is off and running on one of his career-high 13 receptions for 119 yards Saturday as North Carolina safety Tre Boston tries to slow him down.
North Carolina Squeezes By Rutgers 24-22
Tuesday, September 13, 2011 • 4:43am
PISCATAWAY, NJ - A handful of plays, and Rutgers might have beaten North Carolina Saturday afternoon by maybe 28-7 or 35-14.
Then again, a different handful of plays might have resulted in a 40-0 or a 43-16 Rutgers defeat.
No long drives, no dominant themes. Just a handful of big plays.
On the real-life scoreboard, Carolina defeated RU, 24-22.
Carolina fans will point to the Tar Heels’ five turnovers and argue that, without those five plays, the hosts might have run away with this one early.
Rutgers fans will salute the Scarlet Knights for staying close against a national powerhouse, and will debate what was called a non-touchdown at the goal line, while lamenting a few self-inflicted dropsies.
Overall, in several blinks of the eye, it might have been a big-time victory that might have set the tone for a bowl-bound season… or it could have been a disastrous defeat that could have spelled doom and gloom in Piscataway.
Instead, it was neither. It was merely an admirable loss. Admirable, but a loss… A loss, but admirable.
“Two or three plays is what makes or breaks your day. That’s what we need to understand,” said Rutgers coach Greg Schiano.
“How many take-aways we had and all that stuff is great, but at the end of the day, those big plays can’t happen or you’re not a good defense. And we’ll be a good defense because we’ll clean that mess up. But, today wasn’t good enough. Too many big plays. Two big runs, otherwise it’s a great job against the run, but that ‘otherwise’ doesn’t count.”
The Knights had so many chances to make a statement on the national stage, but big play after big play went against them.
Then again, Carolina had chance after chance to build a big lead, but big play after big play went against the Tar Heels, as well.
One thing Scarlet fans learned for sure was that quarterback Chas Dodd and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu are a match made in football heaven, as Sanu caught ’em short and caught ’em long for 13 receptions, 119 yards and a touchdown.
“Just from a spectator’s standpoint, he made some of the most incredible catches I’ve seen in a long time, one-hand grabs,” Schiano said.
Overall, Dodd finished 25-for-47 for 243 yards and two passing scores, showing good grit while under severe pressure most of the day and despite being sacked five times in the pocket.
In the end, trailing 24-22, Rutgers took possession at its own nine-yard line after a punt with 5:57 left in the game.
It had been a rocky road of ups and downs all day long, but the Knights still had a chance to steal a victory despite being on the short end of every stat, including zero yards rushing.
And, give Schiano’s guys credit, they did march from the nine to a first down at the 39, but that’s as far as they could get, and a fourth-down incompletion gave the ball back to Carolina to run out the clock with 2:32.
“One thing I am pleased with is, it showed the toughness of our football team,” Schiano said. “There was a resiliency in them that, until you get tested, you don’t know. And, without the struggle, you don’t know. So now we had the struggle and we’ll see where that puts us.
“I think this game can be a very very important game for us. That’s a good football team. They’re very talented. We had opportunities to win it, we didn’t, they did.
“We’ll clean up our little messes and get better.”
After the home team opened with an instant 7-0 lead on a 66-yard TD pass, Rutgers quarterback Chas Dodd threw a pass that might have been intercepted at midfield, and could have led to a 14-0 deficit, but the ball wound up incomplete.
Later in the quarter, Dodd tossed another one that came close to being intercepted, but, again, fell harmlessly as an incompletion.
Might RU have been down, 21-0? Absolutely.
Then again, the Scarlet Knights had a first down at the Carolina 2-yard line when a dropped pass in the end zone and then a non-review on a goal-line dive resulted in zero points.
RU trimmed the 7-0 score to 7-6 with two second-quarter field goals, but a bomb dropped by Rutgers and a caught bomb that was fumbled away by Carolina prevented either team from gaining any momentum, and Carolina took a 17-12 lead into halftime.
San San Te’s third field goal of the day pulled RU to within 17-15 on the opening possession of the second half, but that’s as close as the Scarlet would come.