2008 Papajohns.com Bowl Recap
Rutgers 29, NC State 23
Just as they had since September, injuries more than likely were the slim difference between victory and defeat for the Wolfpack at the Papajohns.com Bowl. Although Tom O’Brien’s squad led the game until the fourth-quarter and even pulled ahead once more in the last frame, with the first-team All-ACC quarterback sitting on the bench, there just wasn’t enough offensive firepower to pull out the win.
The Scarlet Knights got on the board first after recovering a Jamelle Eugene fumble in the game’s first-play from scrimmage and then driving 50 yards and scoring from the six. NC State wasted little time in answering with an 81-yard drive and a 44-yard touchdown pass from first-team All-ACC quarterback Russell Wilson to Owen Spencer.
The Pack defense forced a punt and then Wilson and company launched another drive, this time a 65-yarder capped off by a 33-yard Josh Czajkowski field goal.
The teams traded a pair of punts in the second quarter before Rutgers drove down to the NC State 13 and San San Te lined up for the 30-yard field goal attempt. But senior defensive lineman Antoine Holmes blocked the kick and gave the ball back to the Pack.
Wilson moved the team down the field one more time before the half, rushing for 39 yards himself on the 80-yard drive. But two plays before Andre Brown scored from the five, Wilson was tackled from behind and got up limping. He threw an incomplete pass and handed off to Brown for the score, but the game, as well as the 2008 season, was over for the redshirt freshman.
Team doctors diagnosed Wilson with a knee sprain at halftime and he was unable to return. He had finished the season by throwing 249 consecutive passes with out an interception, a school record.
Daniel Evans and Harrison Beck both took turns behind center in the second half, combined for three interceptions in just two quarters. Rutgers kicked a field goal on its first possession of the half, recovered a blocked punt at the Wolfpack 16 yardline and went in for the score three plays later on the second posssesion. But heading into the fourth quarter, NC State still held a one-point advantage. However, just a minute-and-a-half into the quarter, the Scarlet Knights jumped ahead with a 28-yard field goal.
Evans led the team down the field 64 yards on the Pack’s next possession, hitting Anthony Hill for 21 yards, Jarvis Williams for 20 and then Hill again for a 16-yard touchdown to put NC State back on top, 23-19. But Rutgers returned the ensuing kickoff 27 yards and then had passes of 23 and 42-yards to score two plays later.
NC State turned the ball over four times, including one lost fumble and the three second-half interceptions, more than in its previous seven games combined. The bowl bid marked Tom O’Brien’s ninth in the previous decade.
RUT - Cervini 6-yard run (Te kick blocked), 11:47, 1st