Detroit — Lorenzo Waters and Rutgers’ defense put on an impressive performance in the Inaugural Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field Friday evening to help the Scarlet Knights to a 40-21 victory over North Carolina.
Waters, a 6-foot, 195-pound senior strong safety, set the tempo by putting a big hit on North Carolina running back T.J. Logan on the game’s opening series.
Waters then recovered a fumble at the Rutgers’ 40 to end a North Carolina drive later in the opening quarter.
Waters again was in the right place, recovering another fumble when Steve Longa forced the ball out of the hands of North Carolina receiver Romar Morris. Waters pounced on the loose ball at the Tar Heels’ 49.
“It was just a matter of going out there and playing hard,” said Waters, who had a game-high 14 tackles. “We knew they were going to come out with a fast tempo (no-huddle style) so it was just about matching their energy and swarming to the ball. Our defense did a really good job of that and fortunately I was able to get in position to pick up the two fumbles and get some momentum for our team.”
Rutgers took advantage of the turnover when quarterback Gary Nova found Andre Patton for 19 yards on first down and then Robert Martin had four straight carries, including an 8-yard TD run to open up a 20-0 cushion with 9:08 left in the half.
Waters wasn’t done with his dominating first-half effort, which included a seven tackles. He blocked a 31-yard field goal with 7:09 left to keep North Carolina frustrated while the Scarlet Knights continued to hold the momentum.
“We had some film study and I knew I might have a chance to get through, so I just jumped the count, got skinny and got my hands up and was able to make a play,” Waters said. “It was definitely important to get the lead early because momentum can carry the whole game and we saw that today. I’m just so proud of my team.”
Milewski: ‘It’s big deal’
It wasn’t just Waters who was playing at the top of his game. Senior defensive end David Milewski was in on seven tackles, including one for loss.
“It feels great, no better way to finish a career than with a win, especially in a great bowl like this,” Milewski said. “They put on a great show for us. Compliments to the entire organization that ran this whole Quick Lane Bowl. It was a phenomenal experience and I’m happy that we won the inaugural game. It’s a big deal.
“I felt like on both sides of the ball we were feeding off of each other and the momentum was on our side in the first half and we got hot.”
Rutgers coach Kyle Flood was thrilled for Milewski and the rest of the Scarlet Knights.
“David’s a special football player, somebody who has overcome three different ACL injuries to be a starter for us the last two years and our team captain and first-team academic All-American,” Flood said. “He’s the face of the program and he’s one of the leaders of our program.
“From a character standpoint, if you were building what’s right about college football and what college football should be, it would be David.”
North Carolina scored a pair of TDs in less than two minutes in the fourth quarter to pull within 40-21 — the first on a 7-yard TD pass from Marquise Williams to Jack Tabb, then after recovering an onside kick, a 1-yard TD toss from Mitch Trubisky to Kendrick Singleton.
The Tar Heels even recovered a second onside kick, but turned the ball over on downs after failing to connect on a fourth-down pass from the Rutgers 8 with just under three minutes left.
Rutgers freshman running back Josh Hicks ran for 202 yards on 19 carries, including 105 on eight tries during the fourth quarter.
The players for the teams received great gifts for participating in the bowl game, including a Fathead custom graphic of each player with their likeness, Sony headphones, a $250 Best Buy Gift Card, Quick Lane bowl merchandise and a Quick Lane bowl football.
Rutgers also received a custom trophy and will get a $25,000 locker room makeover courtesy of Fathead.
Each coach also received a luxury watch from Detroit-based Shinola and a welcome basket featuring Michigan products from Meijer.
Ebron is there
Detroit Lions rookie tight end Eric Ebron was on the North Carolina sidelines, watching his former Tar Heels teammates.
Ebron was on the receiving end of Williams’ passes last year.