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Sanu bears offensive burden against Tar Heels

<p>Mohamed Sanu took over punt return duties against UNC?after
fifth-year senior Mason Robinson tore his ACL in practice.</p>

Mohamed Sanu took over punt return duties against UNC?after fifth-year senior Mason Robinson tore his ACL in practice.

With just one play, Mohamed Sanu showed he belonged. In between four North Carolina defenders on Saturday, the Rutgers football team’s prized offensive weapon leapt into the air and hauled in an acrobatic touchdown with just one hand.

The score brought the Scarlet Knights within two points of UNC, the eventual victor, but proved Sanu was finally at full strength following an injury-plagued 2010 campaign.

“Just from a spectator standpoint, he made some of the most incredible catches I’ve seen in a long time,” said head coach Greg Schiano.

Sanu pulled in 12 more passes on the day, including another highlight-reel grab or two, giving the South Brunswick, N.J., native 20 catches through just two games.

He is on pace to rack up 140 passes on the season.

But other than Sanu, who caught more than half of Dodd’s 25 completions Saturday, no other Knight emerged as a complementary weapon.

Junior Mark Harrison dropped a sure touchdown pass after beating a UNC defender downfield and freshman Brandon Coleman managed just one reception, albeit on a crucial 4th-and-long play.

Junior Tim Wright caught his first career touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, but compiled just 19 yards as the Knights’ second-leading receiver.

“We’re going to fight no matter what the situation is,” Sanu said. “I feel like we came out, we played hard. We had a couple miscues, but we have to execute on those miscues that we had.”

Despite Sanu’s productive day against the Tar Heels, one crucial play evaded him and the Rutgers offense.

With the ball on the UNC 2-yard line following junior safety Duron Harmon’s third interception of the season, offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti opted for a play-action pass.

Pinched in to the offensive line, Sanu beat the UNC defender off the line of scrimmage, but he and sophomore quarterback Chas Dodd could not connect to tie to score at 7.

“I was running toward my angle and — I don’t know if Chas was hurried up —the ball was thrown a little behind me,” Sanu said. “I looked up and I saw it going this way, and I tried to catch it, but I just couldn’t bring it down.”

Sanu and Dodd nearly brought the Knights back on their final drive of the game.

Dodd found Sanu for three consecutive completions, bringing Rutgers to its own 39-yard line and looked for him again on the next play, but the pass fell incomplete.

The drive eventually fizzled after more than three minutes, and the Knights never got the ball back again, down, 24-22.

“It was huge,” Dodd said of Sanu’s contributions. “He made some great plays for us, and so did some other guys. But it wasn’t enough, so we’re just going to have to keep coming out, working hard and prepare for our next game.”

The Knights do not play again until Sept. 24, so Sanu has to wait until he can add to his list of offensive exploits.

In the meantime, he can expect to continue to work on returning punts, a role he took on once fifth-year senior Mason Robinson tore his ACL during a Rutgers practice after the team’s season opener.

Sanu said he felt comfortable in the position, which he also dabbled in as a freshman with mixed results.

“I think it’ll help in the long term,” Sanu said of the loss to UNC. “We just have to be able to build from it, and take in the mistakes and all the good from it and flush it, and get ready for our next opponent. North Carolina is a very good team, came out and played very hard, and they just got the best of us.”

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