PISCATAWAY, N.J. – With the season near peril, with the offense stumbling over itself again, Rutgers freshman quarterback Chas Dodd decided put an early stamp on his career.
And also may have cemented himself as the starting quarterback.
Dodd’s 52-yard touchdown pass with 3:53 to play tied it, and his 45-yard pass to Jeremy Deering in the closing minute set up San San Te’s 34-yard field goal with 13 seconds remaining gave the Scarlet Knights a stunning 27-24 come-from-behind win against Connecticut on Friday at Rutgers Stadium.
The win in the Big East opener came in front of representatives from the Rose, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta bowls, ends the Scarlet Knights’ (3-2, 1-0 Big East) two-game winning streak and puts Rutgers, at least for a night, alone in first in the conference.
Te’s kick from 34-yards was his first game-winner since he was a jv player at Hickory High.
“I was just trying to stay focused and stay calm and collective,” Dodd said. “That last drive once we ended up kicking the field goal just the emotion all came over me and I can’t explain it.”
Dodd was starting in place of Tom Savage, who injured his hand last week, and finished 18 of 29 for 322 yards and two touchdowns. It was the most passing yards by a Rutgers quarterback making a first start since Mike McMahon threw for 386 yards against Army in 1997.
“When we recruited Chase, you saw just what a fabulous player he was,” Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. “But it's tough to pull the trigger on a guy who's just about six foot, and (offensive coordinator) Kirk Ciarrocca and myself, we went around and around, but once we saw him in our camp and saw him throw and got to meet him, we knew he was a special guy.”
While Rutgers’ running game continued to have problems (38 attempts for 88 yards), the passing game excelled as the Scarlet Knights offense scored its most points of the season.
Harrison had five catches (matching his 2009 total) for a career-best 112 yards. Tight end D. C. Jefferson added a career-best four catches and freshman receiver Jeremy Deering had three catches for a career-best 102 yards.
“You could see Jeremy coming on, right,” Schiano said. “He's so strong and so athletic, he just had to feel his way. He's not near how good he's going to be, let me tell you.
“Mark Harrison, I've said all along, is coming along, and I'm really proud of his progress not only out there on the football field but everything. He's really starting to get it. I'm certainly happy for him against his home state, being a Connecticut kid, certainly a huge play, and really happy for that young receiver's crew.”
UConn led 24-17 at the half, in large part to a 100 yard kickoff return by Nick Williams in the first quarter and a 66-yard run by Jordan Todman in the second quarter.
Rutgers was able to move the ball in parts for much of the game, and accumulated 453 yards of offense. However, the Scarlet Knights committed 11 penalties as drives continued to stall.
But that changed when Rutgers got the ball with four minutes to play and Dodd connected on a pass down the left sideline to Harrison, who caught the ball and ran the last 10 yards to tie it 24-24 with 3:53 to play.
“I knew there was going to be a big play coming,” Harrison said. “The corner bit so I changed my route up a little bit and just kept going. When the ball was in the air nothing was going through my head except catching it and just getting in that end zone.”
Dodd then delivered in the final minute when he found Deering on a corner-post for 45 yards to give Rutgers the ball at the UConn 17-yard line.
Rutgers positioned the ball in the center of the field for Te’s 34-yard game-winning kick.
“It stings a lot,” UConn quarterback Cody Ednres said. “Rutgers is a good team. We were looking to come and get our first Big East win and it didn’t happen, so it’s very disappointing right now.”