Rutgers Off to Rough Start with Labor Day Loss

Adam HelfgottCorrespondent ISeptember 2, 2008

Rutgers opened its 2008 campaign yesterday with a lackluster performance in a losing effort against Fresno State 24-7 in front of the 11th sellout crowd in a row at Rutgers Stadium.

The Scarlet Knights could not take advantage of its great field position several times in the first half, which kept the BCS busters from Fresno State in the game. Neither team scored in the first half.

The Bulldogs took advantage of Rutgers' missed opportunities with a 31-yard field goal from Kevin Goessling to take the lead and then marched down field on a 77-yard reception by Seyi Ajirotutu on blown coverage by the Knights' secondary.

Ryan Matthews then ran for a 4-yard touchdown on the following play, giving Fresno State a 10-0 lead in the third quarter.

Rutgers gained some life back after senior QB Mike Teel led his team on a nine-play, 81-yard drive, capped off by a 1-yard run by Kordell Young.

Rutgers looked like it had the Bulldogs stopped on third-and-23 when Senior QB Tom Brandstater found Ajirotutu again at the 1-yard line for the biggest first down of the game.

Matthews scored two plays later to put the lead at 17-7 with 6:46 left in the game. Matthews added one more touchdown with 3:15 left, making the score 24-7.

Rutgers offense could not get in synch the entire game, as QB Mike Teel struggled to find his key wideouts, Underwood or Kenny Britt. Kordell Young performed well after coming back from knee surgery, as he ran for 94 yards on 26 carries.

The Rutgers defense stopped Brandstater and his offense on four consecutive drives, but two missed FG’s by new Rutgers kicker San San Te and an interception throw by Teel left the game open for the Bulldogs.

The win for Fresno made it their fifth straight opening day win and their 13th win overall against BCS opponents. It seemed like the long flight from Fresno to New Jersey didn’t seem to bother Pat Hill’s squad one bit.

Fresno State was picked to be one of the non-BCS team who may crash the BCS party this year. The Bulldogs get Wisconsin in two weeks at home and play Toledo as well as UCLA at the Rose Bowl.

Rutgers will have time to regroup, as the Scarlet Knights have nine days off before hosting North Carolina in a Thursday night showdown on ESPN.