SYRACUSE, NY – It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t always the best brand in football, but Rutgers did just enough to secure the victory.
Playing in their first real road environment for the first time in two years, the Scarlet Knights capitalized on a few Syracuse mistakes and made the necessary plays to escape the Carrier Dome with a 17-7 victory over the Orange on Saturday.
Rutgers is 2-0 for the first time since 2014.
The Scarlet Knights’ defense was once again stellar. This was especially crucial given that Rutgers’ offense struggled to move anything forward.
Quarterback Noah Vedral finished 22 of 28 for 145 yards and a touchdown – a 30-yard pass to Jovani Haskins in the third quarter.
Kyle Monangai scored on an 11-yard run in the third for the game’s first touchdown, and Valentino Ambrosio rebounded after missing a 28-yard field goal attempt with a 27-yard kick through the uprights to make it 17 -7 and cap the score.
Syracuse QB Tommy DeVito, a Don Bosco product, finished 15 of 25 for 149 yards.
Sean Tucker scored the Orange’s only touchdown, a 24-yard run in the third quarter.
Odd first half
It was a bizarre first half, filled with solid defense, lackluster attack and continuous swing changes that neither team capitalized on.
Max Melton came up with a big play for Rutgers early on, blocking a punt to give the ball to the Scarlet Knights at Syracuse 18.
It looked like a great opportunity for Rutgers. It turned out that was anything but.
Jovani Haskins was called up for offensive pass interference on the third and third of the 11, then Vedral was sacked for a nine-yard loss to bring the fourth down.
Rutgers then attempted to hit a 53-yard field goal but the attempt was botched and it was a turnaround on the downs, giving Syracuse the ball to the Orange 43.
Syracuse came down the field and knocked on the door – until the Rutgers defense returned.
The Orange got a third and 8 at the Rutgers 14 when DeVito hit Taj Harris for a nine-yard pass.
Avery Young, however, pulled the ball away from Harris and Melton recovered at Rutgers 5.
The Scarlet Knights, however, couldn’t do anything with it.
Rutgers had another terrible possession in the second quarter. The Scarlet Knights had a first down at 36, but Vedral was sacked for a 10-yard loss. Then he was sacked again for a loss of five before Rutgers was called up for a false start penalty, giving the Scarlet Knights a third and 30 to ultimately kill the player.
Later in the quarter, Rutgers started a possession at Syracuse 46. After Vedral hit Jamier Wright-Collins for a nine-yard gain, an incomplete pass before a Pacheco run for no gain took it fourth and -1.
Rutgers went there.
Vedral gave in to Pacheco, but Syracuse linebacker Mikel Jones exploded in the middle and knocked Pacheco down for a four-yard loss.
It was that kind of half for the Scarlet Knights.
But the Syracuse offensive was not much better. At all.
The Orange knocked on the door again in the final minute of half-time until his practice stalled at Rutgers 25.
Andre Szmyt tried for a 43-yard field goal, but it was left to send the game scoreless at halftime.
But that changed quickly in the second half.
Rutgers breaks through after halftime
The Scarlet Knights finally entered the table midway through the third quarter – with help from the Orange.
Rutgers put together a solid training, which included a three-meter run from Johnny Langan to convert a fourth and a 1 at the Syracuse 31.
The Scarlet Knights then finished third and 14th at Syracuse 22.
Vedral hit Shameen Jones for an eight-yard pass, but officials waived the penalties. Then Syracuse was fined for unsportsmanlike conduct, giving Rutgers a first down at 11.
Monangai ran it from there for the game’s first touchdown.
The Scarlet Knights’ advance did not last long.
DeVito hit Taj Harris for a 51-yard pass in Syracuse’s second play of possession that followed, and Tucker completed the run with a 24-yard touchdown run.
Rutgers, however, regained the lead in the last minute of the quarter.
The Scarlet Knights started training at Syracuse 41, and went on to get a fourth and 1 in 32. Rutgers went there and Pacheco ran to center for a gain of two yards and a first down.
After an incomplete pass, Vedral hit a wide-open Jovani Haskins for a 30-yard touchdown pass to put Rutgers back 14-7 ahead.
The Scarlet Knights gained a little more leeway in the fourth quarter.
Mayan Ahanotu stripped DeVito on the opening play of the ensuing Syracuse drive and CJ Onyechi recovered at the Syracuse 10-yard line.
Possession ended with Ambrosio’s 27-yard field goal.