Dodd throws with pinpoint accuracy as Rutgers completely clicks to clinch Pinstripe Bowl berth against ND Dame
Chas Dodd’s final game at High Point Solutions Stadium ended the same way as his first: a night-game victory putting hope in the hearts of the Piscataway faithful.
The Rutgers football team received its best possible circumstance out of the senior quarterback’s 19-for-24 throwing performance in Saturday’s 31-6 victory against South Florida.
The Scarlet Knights dusted off Dodd’s 16-for-35, two-interception performance Nov. 30 at Connecticut, and he significantly improved against the Bulls.
While countless fans called for head coach Kyle Flood’s firing during the season’s decay, Flood received a postgame call from a New York Yankees representative.
The Yankees invited Rutgers (6-6, 3-5) to play Dec. 28’s New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Notre Dame, and the Knights accepted.
Flood’s midseason stress disappeared as the second-year head coach was arguably the jolliest he was all season.
“I’m pretty good at avoiding the emotion beforehand,” Flood said postgame. “Now I’ve done this twice, where you watch the seniors run out to you and shake your hand and hug you.”
Once Dodd hugged Flood and his family from Lyman, S.C., in the pregame senior night ceremony, he evolved in his final home game.
Dodd fixed his issue of holding onto the ball too long, which in the past resulted in countless sacks and many insignificant rushes off scrambles.
The Byrnes (S.C.) High School product gained four rushing yards against UConn and got sacked twice. USF (2-10, 2-6) sacked Dodd twice, but he was smarter with his rushes as he gained 22.
Dodd also completed several short throws, as he posted only 179 yards. His longest pass went for 24 yards, allowing Rutgers to dominate time of possession with 37:30.
“A lot of it’s the preparation and what we’ve seen on film that they would be successful [on the pass rush],” Dodd said of where his improved decision-making came from. “That’s a lot of just the game-planning that we put into it, and we were able to execute tonight and it helped us out.”
Rutgers carried out lengthy scoring possessions through consistent rushing, too.
Sophomore running back P.J. James, who rushed for 113 yards against USF, recorded 51 yards on an eight-and-a-half-minute possession in the fourth quarter. He gave Rutgers a 28-6 lead with 7:24 left in the game.
The Knights’ defense, meanwhile, surrendered only 10 rushing yards, the lowest total since allowing Tulane eight in last year’s season opener.
One of the Bulls’ 11 penalties — eight came in the first half — erased an early Dodd mistake.
Cornerback Brandon Salinas intercepted Dodd in the red zone in the first quarter and returned it to Rutgers’ 38-yard line. But defensive tackle Luke Sager’s roughing the passer penalty gave Rutgers possession at USF’s 12-yard line.
Then Dodd delivered freshman wide receiver Andre Patton’s first-career offensive touchdown with 4:10 left in the quarter. Rutgers held a 14-0 lead, scoring a bit earlier with 5:41 left on a 5-yard James rush.
The defense supplemented the offense by making few mistakes. It played to its strengths by containing USF’s pro-style offensive plays inside the hash marks.
Senior defensive tackle Isaac Holmes struggled last Monday to think of how the defense could improve issues it had all season for this game, saying Rutgers could fix little things.
“This was definitely more than the little things tonight,” Holmes said, still panting with a smile an hour after game’s end. “…You could actually see in their faces that they went out and played for us seniors. I just told these guys, ‘We’ve got one more time to do this. Hopefully everybody comes out with the right mindset.’”
Flood especially saw raw emotion in Holmes’ face when he hugged him pregame.
“To see a guy like Isaac Holmes is probably a great example because I was Ike’s recruiter when he was in Hoboken High School,” Flood said. “I remember going to the school to see him and sitting in his house and talking to his dad. You watch him run out the tunnel for the last time, that brings a lot of thoughts into your head.”
Rutgers played what Flood called the most complete game all season to extend the seniors’ careers, and Dodd extended his own.
Dodd’s career began with a comeback Friday night victory against Connecticut in 2010, and ends with another nighttime victory.
He also led a comeback win two years ago against USF on a Saturday night, but Dodd does not know what it is about him and nighttime.
“There may be something,” he said.
There might be something with Dodd and Pinstripe Bowls too, as his last start before this season was a victory at Yankee Stadium.
For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Josh Bakan on Twitter @JoshBakan. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.