|Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller upends Rutgers WR Brandon Coleman during the Russell Athletic Bowl. (US Presswire)|
It's easy to confuse a close game with a good one. Friday's Russell Athletic Bowl between Rutgers (9-4) and Virginia Tech (7-6) in Orlando was close, not good. The Hokies slipped past the Scarlet Knights 13-10 in overtime, despite gaining just 195 total yards.
And as bad as the Virginia Tech offense was, Rutgers, somehow, was worse. Kyle Flood's team managed just 191 total yards and failed to score an offensive touchdown. The only Rutgers TD came when LB Khaseem Greene fell on a fumble in the endzone. Rutgers added a field goal in the first quarter, but that would be all its scoring.
The Hokies rallied in the fourth quarter thanks to several Rutgers miscues. Virginia Tech tied the game early in the fourth at 10, and the teams battled fruitlessly until time expired. The Hokies made a field goal in overtime, and Rutgers K Nick Borgese just missed from 42 yards, and that was it.
When the game turned: Virginia Tech CB Antone Exum's fourth-quarter interception. Exum certainly built up some good karma earlier in the week, and it paid off late against Rutgers. QB Gary Nova chucked a wounded duck in his direction, and Exum picked it off an returned it to the Rutgers 31.
At the time, the Virginia Tech offense was completely stagnant. But afterward -- trailing 10-3 -- the Hokies were able to score a TD and force overtime.
What they said:
- Rutgers coach Kyle Flood on his team's defensive performance: "Two tremendous defensive performances, and one of the better defensive performances I've seen from Rutgers players this season," Flood told the Associated Press. "It's unfortunate that we came out on the wrong side of the game, and squander that kind of performance as a result."
- Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, on the Hokies defense: "I can't commend the defense more," Thomas told the AP. "The entire season that's kind of how it's been. I have to give a shout out to (Tech linebacker) Bruce Taylor because he played his tail off the entire game. It felt like he was in the backfield making a tackle on every play."
Highlight moments: Honestly, there was one. Yes, one good play. After Exum's interception, Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas threw a perfect pass to WR Corey Fuller to tie the game at 10. It was surprising, actually, because Thomas finished with 192 yards on 15-of-39 passing with two INTs.
Significance of Virginia Tech's victory: Simply, it put the Hokies north of .500. Virginia Tech's last losing season came in 1992-93. Also, the Hokies finally exacted revenge on the Big East, after losing to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh this season.
Significance of Rutgers' loss: It was a chance for the Scarlet Knights, on their way out the door, to prove they were a major program. Alas, it was not to be. After starting 9-1, Rutgers lost its last three games.
Top shelf performances: None. Certainly some players performed well. But for every good play, there were plenty more negative. Exum's pick was nice, but he dropped an easy one earlier. Thomas threw a nice TD pass, but he also completed just 38 percent of his throws. It was just an ugly game all around.
Numbers you should know: Rutgers failed to gain a yard in its overtime possession. ... There were a total of 21 punts in the game. ... No receiver for either team had more than four catches.
(For more on the Russell Athletic Bowl, check out the Eye on College Football blog)
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis on the Big East, follow bloggers Evan Hilbert and Matt Rybaltowski @CBSBigEast.