NEW YORK — Don’t be fooled by the “scarlet” in the team’s name. What defines the Rutgers football team is epitomized by the color blue. As in blue collar. On Thursday afternoon, the most blue-collar of units on any football team, special teams, came through once again for the Scarlet Knights, whose close-to-home holiday season ended in the brightest of fashion in the bright lights of the Big Apple.
Trevor Yeboah-Kodie’s blocked punt resulted in Timmy Ward’s recovery for a touchdown late in the third quarter, giving Rutgers the lead for good as the Scarlet Knights defeated the University of Miami 31-24 to win the Pinstripe Bowl inside Yankee Stadium on Thursday. Running back Kyle Monangai ran for 163 yards and a touchdown for Rutgers, who won its first bowl game since the 2014 Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit against North Carolina.
Completing his second season in his second stint at Rutgers, head coach Greg Schiano made waves on the banks of the Old Raritan with his “keep chopping” mantra that once took the program, almost never known for its football prowess, to the No. 2 ranking in college football just over a decade ago. The special teams unit is his baby, and the pride and joy came through once again in blocking the 70th kick during his tenure with the Scarlet Knights, with the block-and-score giving Rutgers a 17-14 lead with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
What made the block extra special was the two men instrumental to the success of the play; Yeboah-Kodie played lacrosse for four years at Brown University, and only joined the football team after matriculating from the Providence school and after Schiano spoke to his dad, who played football at Penn State when Schiano was an assistant in Happy Valley; Ward, a cancer survivor, initially joined the team as an equipment manager before walking on the team, impressing the assistant coaches enough with his speed to warrant time as a member of the team’s special teams unit.
“Those two guys are kind of very symbolic of who we are. Just a hard-working group,” Schiano said in the postgame press conference. “We believe in chopping and doing your work, and preparation gives you a chance when the opportunity presents. I couldn’t be more happy for two guys that deserve it.”
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday afternoon’s game, with all photos taken by A Lot of Sports Talk photo editor Robert Cole and staff photographer Scotty Rausenberger. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 21 pictures in total.