Thursday, December 28, 2023

Rutgers Dominates Early & Late To Take Pinstripe Bowl


Kyle Monangai on his 40-yard dash down to the one-yard line that set up a Rutgers touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights won the Pinstripe Bowl, 31-24, over the Miami Hurricanes on Thursday evening at Yankee Stadium, the second time they have won the big game in The Bronx.

It is Rutgers' first bowl win since 2014, when they won the Quick Lane Bowl over North Carolina, 40-21. They lost the Pinstripe Bowl the prior year to Notre Dame, 29-16, after they triumphed at Yankee Stadium in 2011 over Iowa State, 27-13.

Rutgers was led by running back Kyle Monangai, who was honored with the Henry George "Hank" Steinbrenner Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl MVP Trophy. He had 25 carries for 163 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Gavin Wimsatt threw for just 85 yards, but he ran in two touchdowns.

Rutgers opened the game with a 13-play, 75-yard drive capped by a one-yard run by quarterback Gavin Wimsatt on a push at the goal line. Then, in the second quarter, Kyle Monangai ran one in from seven yards out, at the end of a quick six-play, 42-yard drive, to give them a commanding 14-0 lead.

Miami then responded with their best drive to that point, a nine-play, 75-yard drive capped by a seven-yard touchdown run for quarterback Jacurri Brown that cut Rutgers' lead in half with 3:19 left until the half.

Rutgers then had a short six-play, 23-yard drive that forced them to give Miami the ball back with 45 seconds left in the second quarter. They raced 73 yards down the field, close enough for Andres Borregales to connect on a 35-yard field goal to pull Miami within 14-10.

Miami kept that momentum going into the third quarter, which they opened with an eight-play, 69-yard drive capped by a 30-yard touchdown pass from Brown to Xavier Restrepo into the right corner of the end zone to put them up 17-14.

After Rutgers had a short drive that fizzled out, Miami had a three-and-out that led to the play of the game. Dylan Joyce lined up to punt at the Miami 13-yard line, and as he shifted to his right to kick it, Trevor Yeboah-Kodie blocked it before Timmy Ward scooped it up and raced in for a touchdown that put the Scarlet Knights back up 21-17.

The Rutgers bench celebrating the punt block that turned into a touchdown. Photo by Jason Schott.

Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano said of the turning point of the game, "You know, football is a game of momentum, and anybody who tells you it's not really I think they're living in a dream world. We certainly jumped out and grabbed the momentum early, but then it kind of was getting away from us, and we had an opportunity there with the block. 

"Trevor Yeboah-Kodie is a classic example of chop, followed by Timmy Ward, who is even a more classic. So the story behind Trevor Yeboah-Kodie, I coached his dad and his uncle at a different school in Pennsylvania that's in our league. His dad reached out to me and said, 'My son has another year of eligibility. He was a lacrosse player at Brown. Really good lacrosse player. I said, 'Yeah, let me look at his tape.' All he had was his high school tape. I looked at it and said, 'Oh, I wish I had gotten him out of high school.' He is a really good player. He came, and he was really a special teams specialist...

"Every practice, every game, and for him to block it, and then the guy that recovered it, Timmy Ward, you local guys know the story, but Timmy Ward, high school kid, gets cancer, beats cancer, comes to Rutgers, and wants to play football at Rutgers. So he starts as an equipment manager. He is an equipment manager for like a year and a half. He goes to the walk-on try-outs, and my guys who run the walk-on try-outs come to me and say, 'Hey, look, the equipment manager, he can run. He is a good athlete. We ought to give him a chance. I said, 'Yeah, let's give him a chance.

"He is the brains of the outfit now. He runs the punt block team. He makes all the checks. For him to recover that and score the touchdown, those two guys are kind of very symbolic of who we are. Just a hard-working group. We believe in chopping and doing your work, and preparation gives you a chance when the opportunity presents. I couldn't be more happy for two guys that deserve it."

The Rutgers defense tightened up after that, as they forced Miami into two three-and-outs before another big drive to pull away. 

The drive began at the 14:54 mark of the fourth, and Rutgers let Monangai take over. He had a run for three yards, then one for 12, another for nine before he broke out for a 40-yard gain that ended at the one-yard line. Wimsatt then ran it in on a goal-line push from there to make it 28-17. 

After another quick drive for Miami that included a fourth-down stop by Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights got a 25-yard field goal from Jai Patel that made it 31-17 with 2:35 remaining. 

Miami wasn't done yet, as they put together an 11-play, 75-yard drive capped by a Brown one-yard touchdown run that made it 31-24 with 27 seconds remaining.

That was when it really got interesting, as Miami recovered the onside kick by Borregales. The Rutgers defense held firm, as they got held Restrepo to just a five-yard gain on a reception on fourth-and-six with seven seconds left to seal the win.

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