Rutgers storms past Indiana to become bowl eligible
Piscataway, N.J. — Rutgers' first season in the Big Ten Conference wasn't as bad as many expected. The Scarlet Knights are bowl eligible.
Gary Nova threw two touchdown passes to Leonte Carroo and Robert Martin ran for three more as Rutgers defeated Indiana, 45-23, on Saturday to become bowl eligible for the ninth time in 10 seasons.
Nova and Carroo combined on scoring passes of 34 and 56 yards and Martin tallied on runs of 2, 47 and 1 yards as the Scarlet Knights (6-4, 2-4 Big Ten) snapped a three-game losing streak and sent Indiana (3-7, 0-6) to its fifth straight loss.
"Just to get that sixth win, that bowl eligible win, and to do more than what people thought we were going to do in the Big Ten, that's just awesome," said Carroo, who finished with five catches for 125 yards.
Rutgers was picked to finish near the bottom in its division and very few thought the Scarlet Knights would get six wins facing a schedule that included some of the best teams in the country.
"We never listened to anything like that," said Nova, who was 16-of-27 for 217 yards. "We knew we weren't going to get respect going into the Big Ten. We knew if we played good football, we could do good things. We had some games where we didn't play well, but we're bowl eligible and a lot of people didn't give us that."
The win barely overshadowed a magnificent performance by Indiana halfback Tevin Coleman, who rushed for a career-high 307 yards, including a 67-yard touchdown run late in the first half. It was the second-best game in school history, trailing only Anthony Thompson's 377-yard effort in 1989.
"He's a good back," Rutgers defensive tackle Darius Hamilton said. "We've played some great running backs, back to back to back. Coleman has a second gear that is unbelievable. Once he hits those holes there is no stopping him. Hats off to them, they came out here and played a physical game."
Josh Hicks also scored for Rutgers on a 9-yard run after Indiana failed on a fake punt deep in its own territory in the third quarter.
The Hoosiers opened the game by recovering an onside kick, setting up one of three field goals by Griffin Oakes.
Shane Wynn said Indiana played with heart and pride its last two games.
"Fighting for each other," said Wynn, who caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Zander Diamont. "We play for an audience of one. We don't play for everybody else. We play for the guys to our left and the guy to our right."
Coleman's touchdown run with 18 seconds left in the half gave the Hoosiers a 13-10 lead, and they upped the margin to 16-10 early in the third quarter when Oakes kicked a 22-yard field goal. It came after safety Delon Stephenson ran down Coleman at the Rutgers 5 after a 68-yard run.
"I didn't think I was going to get caught, but he got me and that's what happened," said Coleman, who carried 32 times in posting his ninth game of rushing for at least 100 yards this season.
The Scarlet Knights took over after the stop.
Martin, who ran for 83 yards, capped an 80-yard drive on the ensuing possession with his 47-yard scoring run, the freshman's longest of the season. After a three-and-out and a 23-yard punt return by Janarion Grant, Nova and Carroo combined from 34 yards out, with the junior receiver breaking a tackle by Tim Bennett at the 18 for a 24-16 lead.
Hicks, who rushed for 114 yards, pushed the lead to 31-16 late in the third quarter when the faked punt went awry after punter Erich Toth dropped the ball as he started to run.
A 28-yard touchdown pass from Diamont to Wynn got the Hoosiers within 31-23, but Rutgers put the game out of reach on Nova's 56-yard pass to Carroo and Martin's 1-yard touchdown run late in the game.