Behind a slew of big plays by the defense and special teams units Saturday the No. 20-ranked Rutgers Scarlet Knights defeated the visiting Syracuse Orange, 23-15, in a Big East Conference game at High Point Solutions Stadium. The victory helped Rutgers (6-0, 3-0 Big East) become bowl eligible for the seventh time in eight seasons, while Syracuse (2-4, 1-1) lost to the Scarlet Knights for the second straight season.
A 75-yard touchdown scored on a return off a blocked field goal served as the game's momentum changer. Senior defensive back Duron Harmon scooped up the block, which came on a 32-yard field goal attempt by SU kicker Ross Krautman, and followed a slew of blockers into the end zone to help Rutgers take a 14-7 lead just 3:02 into the second half.
If Syracuse connected on the attempt it would have given them a three-point lead coming out of halftime.
Instead, the Scarlet Knights fed off the shift and tacked on a 25-yard field goal by Nick Borgese, near the end of the third quarter, and a 12-yard touchdown pass by sophomore quarterback Gary Nova to Tyler Kroft to push their lead to 23-7 with 14:01 to play in the fourth quarter.
The Orange trimmed Rutgers' lead to 23-15 with 4:19 to play on a 40-yard touchdown reception by Christopher Clark. But after a defensive stop senior quarterback Ryan Nassib threw a interception on the first play of a possible game-tying drive to end any hopes of a comeback.
Overall, Scarlet Knight quarterback Gary Nova managed the game well, completing 14-of-23 passes for 152 yards and one touchdown. Senior running back Jawan Jamison tallied 64 rushing yards and a touchdown on 28 carriers. Jamison's score helped Rutgers take a early 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
Senior linebacker Khaseem Green was all over the field, forcing three fumbles and collecting an interception.
The Orange totaled 418 yards of offense, however, tallied just seven points off six offensive drive that marched inside the Rutgers' 35-yard line. Syracuse also turned the ball over four times, all of them coming in the second half.
Nassib finished the game 25-for-45 for 356 passing yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
Next week, Rutgers visits the Temple Owls on Saturday (noon ET), while on Friday the Orange host the Connecticut Huskies (8 p.m. ET on ESPN).