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September 9, 2006

Rutgers rolls over Illinois, improves to 2-0

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Derrick Roberson fell on a blocked punt for a touchdown and Devin McCourty scored on a 38-yard interception return in the opening minutes to lead Rutgers to a 33-0 rout of Illinois on Saturday.

Ray Rice rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown and Mike Teel threw a touchdown as the Scarlet Knights posted their first shutout since 2002 and handed Illinois its 15th straight road loss. The Illini (1-1) have been outscored 110-5 in their last three road losses.

Unlike a year ago when they opened a 20-point third-quarter lead against Illinois in the season opener and then lost in overtime, Rutgers built a 30-0 halftime advantage and never looked back in starting the season with consecutive wins for the first time since 2000.

Rutgers defense and special teams were outstanding.

The defense forced three turnovers, limited Illinois to 126 total yards and did not allow the Illini to get past their own 46.

Illinois, which had 519 total yards against Eastern Illinois, a Division I-AA opponent last week, finished 0-for-12 on third-down conversions against Rutgers.

Rutgers' special teams were just as important. Joe Radigan had a school-record 78-yard punt on the opening series of the game, with the ball rolling dead at the Illinois 4. Four plays later, Manny Collins came up the middle and blocked a Kyle Yelton punt in the end zone and Roberson fell on it to give Rutgers the lead.

A little more than three minutes later, McCourty intercepted a tipped pass by Tim Brasic near the right sidelines and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown.

Rutgers offense finally got in gear on its next possession.

Teel drove the Scarlet Knights 62 yards in six plays for a touchdown, with the big play being a 27-yard pass to tight end Clark Harris. The two capped the drive with a 1-yard flip on third-and-goal with 2:09 left in the first quarter.

When Jeremy Ito missed the extra point, his first miss in 61 attempts, it might have seemed that Illinois was set for another comeback from a 20-0 deficit. It never happened.

A 28-yard punt by DaJuan Warren gave Rutgers the ball at the Illini 47. Seven plays later, Rice, who rushed for 201 yards last week against North Carolina, scored from a yard out for his fourth TD of the season.

Ito kicked a 37-yard field goal late in the first half and added a 39-yarder midway through the third quarter to close out the scoring.

Illinois finished with 66 yards rushing after gaining 345 last week. Brasic finished 5-for-11 for 46 yards and two interceptions. Isiah Williams was 2-for-10 for 14 yards.

Rutgers last shutout was a 44-0 decision over Army on Sept. 14, 2002.

For more coverage of the Rutgers Scarlett Knights, check out ScarlettNation.com; for more coverage of the Illinois Fighting Illini, check out OrangeandBlueNews.com.



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