TORONTO, ON - With chants of "one more year" from the Rutgers faithful echoing throughout the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Rutgers junior tailback Ray Rice put on a record-shattering performance in the second annual International Bowl that propelled the Scarlet Knights to a 52-30 victory over the Ball State Cardinals before a crowd of 31,455 Saturday afternoon.
Rutgers' Ray Rice Rushed for 280 Yards/Photo: Jim Klapthor
Rice, a junior who has not yet decided on whether he will enter this year's NFL draft or return for his senior season, established a new school single-game rushing mark with 280 yards rushing which included a career long 90-yard touchdown run that also set a new Rutgers school record for the longest play from scrimmage. Rice accounted for four touchdowns in the Scarlet Knights' victory. His record-setting day also included going over the 2,000 yard rushing mark for the season, the most ever by a Scarlet Knights running back in a single season.
The game was expected to be a showcase for both teams' offenses but the Scarlet Knights defense was able to shut down Ball State's record-setting sophomore quarterback Nate Davis until the game was well in hand.
Davis was limited to 107 yards passing in the first half and the high-octane Cardinals' offense was limited to three first half field goals. Davis was consistently pressured by a Scarlet Knights defense that recorded six sacks, five in the first half alone. The Cardinals also found the going difficult on the ground, rushing for only 169 yards in the contest.
"Let me tell you, Nate Davis is somebody special," said Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano afterward when discussing Rutgers pass rush. "Our guys hit him a lot and he got right back up every time. He's very elusive and one tough player."
Rutgers opened the scoring by going 72 yards on the game's opening possession, capped by quarterback Mike Teel's 36 yard touchdown pass to Tim Brown. For the contest Teel passed for 303 yards on 16-25 passing and three touchdowns.
But the day belonged to junior tailback Ray Rice.
Rice scored twice in the first half on a pair of one yard runs as he racked up 110 yards after the opening two quarters but then delivered a crushing blow to any thoughts Ball State may have had this day of making a comeback by electrifying the Rogers Centre crowd when he ran 90 yards on third down and two from his own 10-yard line. The record-setting run, which Ball State head coach Brady Hoke called "demoralizing," gave Rutgers a 31-9 lead early in third quarter.
"That was the longest run of my life," said Rice afterward. "I mean from Pop Warner through high school; that was the longest run I have had. But I remember last year when I was caught from behind against Pittsburgh and there was no way I was going to let that happen again," said a grinning Rice.
But Rice wasn't finished.
After Ball State scored its first touchdown of the contest at 9:43 of the third quarter when Nate Davis connected with Dante Love on a 10-yard end zone strike to make it 31-16, Rutgers responded later in the quarter with an 80 yard, eight play drive that culminated in Rice's fourth touchdown, another one-yard score set up by Rice's own 24-yard run on the preceding play. For the game, Rice averaged eight yards per carry.
The teams exchanged a pair of touchdowns apiece in the fourth quarter with the game's outcome a foregone conclusion.
The International Bowl victory was Rutgers' second straight postseason triumph following last year's 37-10 victory over Kansas State in the Texas Bowl. The Scarlet Knights were making their third straight postseason appearance under head coach Greg Schiano after only appearing in one bowl game in its previous 131 years of football.
But the question of whether Rice will be returning to Rutgers remained unanswered despite the pleadings of the heavily partisan Rutgers crowd.
After the game Rice indicated that he had not yet made a decision on whether to return for his senior season or make himself available in the 2008 NFL draft indicating that he would be meeting with Schiano to discuss his future plans when the team returns to New Jersey. Schiano indicated that he would sit down with his star running back "and review all options" available to the running back.
Ball State meanwhile was making its first postseason appearance since 1996 and is winless in four bowl appearances since 1989 but head coach Brady Hoke believes that the Cardinals gained valuable experience despite the outcome of the game.
"This was a tremendous learning experience for this team and gave us a great opportunity to play on ESPN. There were what, nine (actually ten) other teams in our conference that would have liked to have been playing in a bowl game," noted Hoke.
"There isn't any doubt that we're a better team than how we played today," added Hoke whose young Cardinals squad will return all eleven of its starters on offense next season, including quarterback Nate Davis who is already looking forward to next season.
"We kept on fighting, we just could not fight all the way back," said Davis. "We are going to have to work hard in the offseason and then come back."
--Ball State junior cornerback Trey Buice suffered a concussion early in the contest and did not return to the game. With Buice out of the game, strong safety Alex Knipp was moved to cornerback and free safety Marcus McClure assumed Knipp's spot.
--The announced attendance of 31,455 topped last season's mark of 26,717 in the inaugural edition of the International Bowl. Rutgers sold 8,000 tickets directly and better than half of the crowd on hand appeared to be pulling for the Scarlet Knights.
--After the game International Bowl Executive Director Ken Hoffman stated that the International Bowl is close to signing a deal with a corporate sponsor. Hoffman indicated that an announcement should be coming "very soon."
All photos: Jim Klaphthor
See Also: International Bowl Photo Gallery