PISCATAWAY, N.J. — All Rutgers needed to become bowl eligible was to make a switch at quarterback, get one phenomenal catch from Mohamed Sanu and get a little lucky to boot, literally.
Chas Dodd threw a game-tying 34-yard touchdown pass with 1:08 to play and San San Te kicked a 37-yard field goal in overtime as Rutgers snapped a two-game losing streak and become bowl eligible with a 20-17 victory over South Florida on Saturday night.
It's a great rebound for Rutgers, which posted a 4-8 mark last season to miss the postseason for the first time in six years.
"I forgot about that," Schiano said of becoming bowl eligible. "The kids reminded me. I was just so happy to win the game. It's great. Six times in seven years, I think, you know, ten years ago Rutgers people might have signed up for that. I understand my expectations are higher, but I'm happy we're going back to a Bowl game. Wherever it is, I'm happy we're going."
Rutgers (6-3, 3-2 Big East) was also lucky to win this one. It was outgained 381-228, including 221 to minus-7 on the ground, and the only reason it got to overtime was that Maikon Bonani missed a game-winning 27-yard field goal attempt for South Florida (4-4, 0-4) on the final play of regulation.
Duron Harmon intercepted a B.J. Daniels pass to stop South Florida's possession in the overtime and the Scarlet Knights ran three plays before settling for Te's second field goal of the game.
"I thought: 'He's definitely going to make this," said Sanu, who had seven catches for 60 yards on the game-tying drive. "I saw the look in his eye when he went out there and I had total confidence in San San."
The win also might have created a quarterback controversy at Rutgers. Dodd (11 of 17 for 125) played well in relief of freshman Gary Nova, who struggled for the third straight start.
Schiano said he wants to enjoy the win before deciding who will start against Army next weekend.
For Dodd, it was redemption after being benched a month ago after a poor outing against Syracuse.
"I was excited just throwing that touchdown and running down there and hearing the fans," said Dodd, who started most of last season. "...So many emotions. It was great. It was a huge win."
The game didn't look good for the Scarlet Knights after they fell behind 17-3 midway through the fourth quarter on a 4-yard run by Demetris Murray that capped an 89-yard drive.
However, Jeremy Deering returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards to cut the gap to 17-10. It tied the third-longest kickoff return in school history.
Rutgers then tied the game with an 80-yard, 12-play drive that Dodd capped with his pass to Brandon Coleman. Dodd hit Sanu seven times, including one spectacular fourth-down catch to keep the march alive.
"I saw the ball was thrown low and behind me," Sanu said. "I tried to grab it with one hand. I kind of caught it at first. It slipped out and went up in the air and, laying on my back, I caught it."
South Florida had a chance to win the game in the waning seconds when B.J. Daniels hit Murray on a 34-yard pass and then ran 30 yards to give the Bulls a first-and-goal at the 10. But Bonani badly mishit a chip-shot 27-yard field goal on the final play of regulation and it went wide left forcing the overtime.
"The ball hit my foot and it's my job to put it through the uprights," Bonani said. "I had an opportunity to win the game and I didn't. That solely rests on my shoulder. There are a bunch of plays in a football game but for that one play it is my responsibility to do my job and I failed to do so tonight."
Daniels threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Victor Marc and Bonani kicked a 43-yard field goal for South Florida in the first half.
Trailing 10-0 at the half, Rutgers got back in the game on a 33-yard field goal by Te after Pat Kivlehan recovered a fumble by Marc at the Bulls 12.
The defenses dominated the first half, with South Florida limiting Rutgers to 87 yards, including minus-4 yards rushing.Comment on this story
The game was scoreless until the Bulls tallied on their final two possessions of the half.
Daniels got the Bulls in gear with a 21-yard scamper on the first play of what turned out to be an eight-play, 58-yard touchdown drive. South Florida converted two third-and-short plays to keep the drive alive and Daniels hit Marc on a middle screen from 23 yards out on a second-and-18 play on which Rutgers got caught in a blitz.
The Scarlet Knights were in position to get on the board on the next series when Nova hit Coleman for 30 yards to the Bulls 43. Rutgers eventually got the South Florida 33 but Nova was sacked on consecutive plays with defensive end Ryne Giddins forcing a fumble, recovering it and returning it near midfield.
After a couple of first downs for USF, Bonani kicked a 43-yard field goal with 36 seconds left in the half for a 10-0 lead.