Rutgers trailed in the second half on a gloomy day in New York.
Flashback to Oct. 14 vs. Michigan State — The Scarlet Knights needed a spark to swing momentum back in their favor and it came from special teams.
On Thursday, the special teams unit came up with the play of the game once again.
Miami had overcome a 14-0 deficit to take a three-point lead in the third quarter. After the Scarlet Knight defense forced a three-and-out, Miami was punting from deep in its own area. Trevor Yeboah-Kodie flew off the corner and blocked a punt that ended up in the arms of Timmy Ward for a touchdown.
Miami’s special teams attempted to return the favor as an outside kick bounced out of the arms of Kyle Monangai and was recovered by the Hurricanes. Rutgers was able to get a fourth down stop and allow Gavin Wimsatt to enter victory formation to finish off a 31-24 win in the 2023 Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, NY.
Special teams have been special pic.twitter.com/O5WiwlJy4A— Rutgers Football (@RFootball) December 28, 2023
This win puts Rutgers at 7-6 to finish the year and clinch its first winning season since 2014. The Scarlet Knights also earn their first victory over Miami in program history after entering the game 0-11.
Monangai, who finished with 163 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries, set the tone on the first drive. Rutgers ran right at Miami and a Gavin Wimsatt plunge capped a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ate up just over eight minutes on the clock.
Abram Wright’s first career interception led to a Monangai touchdown and put Rutgers up 14-0. Miami head coach and Greg Schiano disciple Mario Cristobal adjusted and the Hurricanes scored on their next three possessions.
Jacurri Brown, who was making his first start of the season, found Xavier Restrepo for a 30-yard touchdown to give Miami a 17-14 lead. After the blocked punt, Rutgers forced a punt and got the ground game going once again.
Monangai took a handoff 40 yards down to the one-yard line to set up Wimsatt’s second rushing score of the afternoon.
The Scarlet Knights came into the Pinstripe Bowl with a plan and executed. Rutgers rushed for 208 yards, got 4.6 yards per carry, and dominated time of possession with 34:21.
It wasn't always pretty and it wasn't always conventional but Greg Schiano has led the Scarlet Knights to a winning season. This might be a developmental program at the moment but there will be plenty to look forward to in 2024 with many key players returning on both sides of the ball.