Freshman Sanu leads Rutgers in St. Petersburg Bowl
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – With versatile freshman Mohamed Sanu doing a little bit of everything, Rutgers extended its string of postseason success with a 45-24 rout of Central Florida in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
The multi-threat receiver ran for two touchdowns out of the wildcat formation and also scored on an 11-yard reception from Tom Savage, another true freshman who threw for a career-best 294 yards Saturday night.
Rutgers (9-4) claimed a school-record fourth consecutive bowl win to finish with at least nine victories for just the sixth time in 140 years. UCF (8-5) fell to 0-3 in bowl games under coach George O’Leary.
Billy Anderson scored on a 19-yard interception return for Rutgers, which shut down 1,000-yard rusher Brynn Harvey, limiting the running back to 30 yards on 13 carries to end his streak of three consecutive games with at least 129.
The first Rutgers player since 1993 to run for a TD, throw for a TD and catch a pass for a TD in the same season, Sanu rushed for a game-high 47 yards on 14 carriers and had four receptions for 97 yards.
He also set up UCF’s first touchdown, fumbling a punt that was recovered inside the Rutgers 10. Three plays later, Brett Hodges threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Kamar Aiken for a brief 7-7 tie.
Tim Brown, whose status had been uncertain because of an ankle injury, put the Scarlet Knights ahead for good when less than a minute later caught a pass over the middle and turned it into a 65-yard TD play.
UCF won five of six after a 3-3 start to earn its third bowl bid in six years under O’Leary – a 106-mile ride from Orlando that’s the shortest trip any Football Bowl Subdivision team will make for a postseason game this year.
Rutgers beat South Florida in mid-November to climb into the Top 25 for the first time this season, but the Scarlet Knights wound up in St. Petersburg for a pre-Christmas matchup after losing two of three down the stretch to Syracuse and West Virginia.
Sanu scored on runs of 5 and 1 yards in the first half. His first reception, a 61-yard gain to the UCF 12 on a pass that was slightly underthrown, set up his 11-yard TD catch that made it 35-17 early in the third quarter.
Savage completed 14 of 27 passes and was intercepted once. Hodges was 13 of 28 for 171 yards and two interceptions for UCF before being replaced by backup Rob Calabrese late in the fourth quarter.
Central Florida had 5 yards net rushing before Calabrese scrambled for 30 for the big gainer in a 10-play, 75-yard march that Jonathan Davis finished with a 2-yard TD run.
Hoping for a chance to pull closer, UCF tried an onside kick that Rutgers’ Damaso Munoz scooped up and ran 35 yards for the Scarlet Knights’ final touchdown.