(Monday, September 1st)
Final Score: Fresno State 24, Rutgers 7
Piscataway, NJ (Sports Network) - Tom Brandstater of Fresno State didn't look like one of the nation's premier college quarterbacks for most of his 2008 debut Monday evening against Rutgers.
But with one pass, Brandstater turned a lackluster performance into a dagger- piercing shot that lifted the Bulldogs to a 24-7 victory in a key early- season non-conference game for two teams with high expectations.
In the fourth quarter, with Fresno State leading 10-7, the Bulldogs faced a 3rd-and-18 from the Rutgers 32 after personal foul and false start penalties had set them back on consecutive plays.
But the cool, collected Brandstater (11-of-24 for 216 yards passing) clothes-lined a pass along the sideline that Seyi Ajirotutu grabbed at the Rutgers two-yard line to set up game-clinching touchdown.
"I made a good throw and (Ajirotutu) made a good catch," said Brandstater, who passed for 2,654 yards last season. "We weren't ourselves in the first half. We weren't playing the way we usually play."
Ryan Matthews (26 carries, 163 yards, three touchdowns) smashed over from the one-yard line two plays later to give FSU an insurmountable 17-7 lead with 6:46 remaining.
Free safety Marvin Haynes picked off the second of his two pass interceptions to set up Matthews' final touchdown from the one in the final minutes.
The second-half outburst was a far cry from the scoreless tie of the first half. It was a struggle in the first half for Brandstater and the rest of the Fresno State offense.
The Bulldogs sputtered on offense throughout the first half, collecting just six first downs and 102 yards of total offense. Brandstater was a wild 5-of-15 for 53 yards in the first half.
But the Fresno State defense was able to hold off Rutgers on three trips to the red zone in the first half. The Scarlet Knights missed field goals from 47 and 22 yards and were stopped again on a goal-line stand by the Bulldogs.
Rutgers also had an 83-yard touchdown punt return in the third quarter by Dennis Campbell called back because of an illegal block.
"In the first half, I thought they completely shut us down," said Fresno State head coach Pat Hill. "We knew we had 30 minutes to get it done."
Fresno State broke a scoreless tie on the opening possession of the third quarter when Brandstater's 31-yard connection with Devon Wylie out of the backfield set up freshman kicker Kevin Goessling's 31-yard field goal at the 10:33 mark.
"The first drive of the second half was critical to getting us going," said Hill. "That sort of broke the ice for us and we got the momentum from there."
A 77-yard pass play from Brandstater to Ajirotutu (three catches, 116 yards) on FSU's next possession set up Matthews for a four-yard TD burst that made it 10-0 midway through the third quarter.
Rutgers finally put together a drive of its own early in the fourth quarter to make it 10-7 with 11:20 remaining, on Kordell Young's one-yard scoring run -- but the Knights got no closer.
Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel was 20-of-39 for 263 yards with two interceptions, but he had several passes dropped. Young finished with 26 carries for a career-high 94 yards and Kenny Britt had six catches for 89 yards.
The Knights managed 369 yards, but only 167 came in the second half.
"Today was a very disappointing and frustrating day for all of us," said Teel. "We just couldn't establish a rhythm with the running or the passing game."
09/01 21:46:44 ET