for this game

Rutgers finishes unbeaten at home for first time since 1984

Nov 25, 2006 - 8:12 PM PISCATAWAY, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Miami may target Greg Schiano to replace Larry Coker. But the Rutgers coach plans to stick around for a "long, long time."

Schiano guided the 15th-ranked Scarlet Knights to their first unbeaten season at home in 22 years with a 38-7 Big East Conference victory over Syracuse.

Rutgers (10-1, 5-1 Big East) can win its first Big East title and a Bowl Championship Series berth with a win at West Virginia next Saturday.

Ray Rice and fullback Brian Leonard combined for 213 yards and three touchdowns on 42 carries and freshman Kenny Britt caught a pair of scoring passes as the Scarlet Knights completed an unbeaten season at home for the first time since 1984.

This marks only the second time in 137 years of football that Rutgers has won as many as 10 games in a season. The Scarlet Knights were a school-best 11-0 in 1976.

It was a fitting final home game for Leonard, a fifth-year senior who redshirted in 2002, when the Scarlet Knights won just one game. He rushed for 106 yards and two second-half touchdowns, the last one coming with just eight seconds left, to become the school's all-time scoring leader with 266 points. Kicker Kennan Starzell held the record with 261 points from 1976-79.

"A lot of the seniors had tears in their eyes," Leonard said. "The record means a lot to me but watching this program rise like it has under coach Schiano means so much more."

Rutgers fans are hoping this isn't Schiano's last home game.

Schiano's rebuilding job at Rutgers has made him a strong candidate for the Miami job, especially since he used to be the Hurricanes' defensive coordinator. Miami fired Coker on Friday.

Schiano used his connections at Miami to recruit at Rutgers, which has 24 players from Florida high schools.

"I know that this is a special place and I look forward to being here for a long, long time," said Schiano, who is under contract to the Scarlet Knights for the next six years but has a $250,000 buyout. "The only time this (the Miami speculation) becomes a distraction is when the media talks about. Otherwise, we're focused on what we need to do."

Schiano may not want to leave a team with this kind of talent. Rice is just a sophomore and was recently named as one of three finalists along with quarterbacks Troy Smith of Ohio State and Brady Quinn of Notre Dame for the Maxwell Award, honoring the nation's best player. Rice rushed for 107 yards on 23 carries to increase his school-record single-season total to 1,495 yards.

Rice also recorded his 17th touchdown of the season, scoring on a 10-yard run with 9:58 left in the first quarter.

Britt is another major cog in the young nucleus as a true freshman. He caught a 38-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline with 6:57 remaining in the first quarter and added a 28-yard scoring reception with 1:17 remaining in the second quarter to increase the lead to 21-0.

"Kenny is an elite athlete," Schiano said. "There is no limit to what he can do."

Sophomore Mike Teel bounced back from a horrific four-interception performance in a 30-11 loss at Cincinnati last week, completing 9-of-11 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, when the Scarlet Knights built a 21-0 lead.

"We worked all year for the chance to win the Big East and now we have that opportunity," Teel said. "The important thing is we put last week behind us and showed what we were made of."

It was the last game of the season for Syracuse (4-8, 1-6), which earned its first conference win last week against Connecticut.

The Orange ended Rutgers' shutout bid when backup Andrew Robinson hit Jawad Nesheiwat with a 14-yard touchdown pass with 7:44 left in the fourth quarter.

Senior starter Perry Patterson completed just 7-of-16 passes for 49 yards with an interception in his final college game.

Rutgers dominated from the start despite having a 99-yard return by Willie Foster on the opening kickoff nullified by an illegal block.

That didn't deter the Scarlet Knights, who went on an eight-play, 88-yard drive that was aided by a 15-yard face-mask penalty against cornerback Tanard Jackson on a third-down sack. Teel hit Britt with a 22-yard pass before Rice capped the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run.

On Syracuse's first possession, safety Courtney Greene picked off a fluttering pass by Patterson and returned the interception 26 yards. Teel then faked a screen pass to his left before lofting a 38-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline to Britt.

Britt beat Jackson on a post pattern over the middle for his 28-yard TD.

Leonard scored on a two-yard run with 7:55 left in the third quarter and Jeremy Ito kicked a 32-yard field goal with 11:49 remaining in the fourth quarter to increase the lead to 31-0.

Leonard carried nine times for 48 yards on Rutgers' last drive, including his record-setting touchdown.

"I had no problem with them scoring in the final seconds," Syracuse coach Greg Robinson said. "Greg (Schiano) explained it to me after the game and I understood. Brian Leonard was a special player for their program."

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