Freshman Jeremy Ito kicked four field goals and Ryan Neill scored on a 31-yard interception return to lead improving Rutgers to a 19-14 victory over
Michigan State on Saturday.
The win was coach Greg Schiano's biggest since coming to Rutgers in December 2000, and it gave the Scarlet Knights renewed hope for their first
winning season since 1992.
Michigan State, which went to the Alamo Bowl last year in John L. Smith's first season as coach, made Rutgers sweat out the final minutes, driving to
the Scarlet Knights' 25 with less than two minutes to play.
Damon Dowdell missed an open Jerramy Scott in the end zone on third down and Eric Knott was tackled short of a first down on a screen pass on fourth
After running out the clock, Rutgers players jumped for joy and hundreds of fan in the stadium-record crowd of 42,612 -- which included Rutgers
alumnus and James Gandolfini, star of the HBO series "The Sopranos" -- joined the celebration.
Ito converted from 24, 47, 23 and 42 yards in attempting a school-record seven field goals, with the first five tries coming on the Scarlet Knights'
first five possessions.
Neill, a defensive end who missed all of last season with a knee injury, scored with 5:10 left in the third quarter after stepping in front of a
Dowdell, who beat out Stephen Reaves and Drew Stanton for the job of replacing Jeff Smoker as the Spartans' quarterback, threw touchdown passes of 9
yards to Matt Trannon in the second quarter and 54 yards to Knott.
The pass to a wide-open Knott cut the Scarlet Knights' lead to 19-14 with 12:41 left to play.
Despite outgaining Michigan State 273-159 and holding the ball more than twice as long as the Spartans in the first half, Rutgers trailed 7-6 at
Ito missed a 29-yarder on the opening series after Brian Leonard (25 rushes for 150 yards) opened the game with 56-yard run.
Ito was way short on a 56-yard attempt on the next possession. He finally converted from 23 yards to give Rutgers a 3-0 lead with 14:08 left in the
second quarter, but then had a 24-yarder blocked on the next possession.
The Spartans scored after the block. A 15-yard face mask penalty against William Beckford and a 46-yard run by Jason Teague set up the score.
Cornerback Eddie Grimes missed the tackle on Trannon at the line of scrimmage on the pass.
Ito, who added his 47-yarder with 5:08 left in the second quarter, gave Rutgers a 9-7 lead with a 23-yarder with 9:34 left in the third quarter. After
Neill's touchdown, he added a 42-yarder.