5 Thoughts - 2008 PapaJohns.com Bowl
NC State QB Russell Wilson
NC State QB Russell Wilson
Posted Dec 30, 2008

Rutgers beats NC State 29-23 ... 5 Thoughts on the 2008 PapaJohns.com Bowl

5 Thoughts ... 2008 PapaJohns.com Bowl

Rutgers 29 ... North Carolina State 23

GAME REVIEW: Rutgers comes through late 
- 2008 CFN PapaJohns.com Bowl Preview 
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1. Don’t look now, but here comes the Big East. Just when everyone thinks it has the conference pegged as a BCS fraud, it gets hot in the second season. Again. Sure, the competition hasn’t been scary, but 3-0 is 3-0. Connecticut is a safe bet to pick up win No. 4 over Buffalo in the International Bowl, which would leave Pittsburgh versus Oregon State in the Sun Bowl and Cincinnati versus Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Even a split gives the league an impressive 5-1 mark two years after going 5-0 in the postseason. Hey, no one is silly enough to compare the Big East to the SEC or Big 12, but as long as it keeps cranking out victories in December and January, everyone should tone down the rhetoric about someday yanking its automatic BCS bowl bid. - Richard Cirminiello 

2. It's not fair to assume that NC State would've won the game had QB Russell Wilson not sprained his knee, but the injury certainly will leave the Wolfpack wondering about what might have been. Yes, the Wolfpack might have lost the game, but NC State fans, be proud, and not just because your team put up a good fight. Be proud that Wilson didn't play in the second half. The uber-competitive freshman was lobbying and politicking to get back into the game, especially when things were starting to go south, but head coach Tom O'Brien wouldn't let it happen. It would've been awfully easy to have stuck Wilson back out there in the name of the bullspit macho football code, but no. The team doctor told O'Brien that Wilson shouldn't play, and that was the end of that for O'Brien. He might be a disciplinarian and he might be as dry as white toast compared to former head coach Chuck Amato, but O'Brien showed class and restraint when other coaches would've put Wilson out there with some rational about having eight months to heal. No, NC State didn't win on the scoreboard, and O'Brien was the first to not let the Wilson injury be used as an excuse, but the program's integrity certainly came through a winner. - Pete Fiutak

3. Russell Wilson was this game's best and most dominant player, but the real MVP was Rutgers fullback Jack Corcoran. Lost in the shadow of better-known skill players (Mike Teel, Tiquan Underwood, and Kenny Britt), Corcoran made some superb catches and gave variety to the Rutgers attack in the second half, enabling the Scarlet Knights to develop a rushing game with running back Joe Martinek. Corcoran is the kind of "glue guy" that reminds me a lot of Brian Leonard, a Rutgers legend who set the standard for all of his successors in Piscataway. With today's terrific effort in Birmingham, Corcoran--a junior--has a chance to produce an outstanding senior season in 2009. - Matthew Zemek

4. Regardless of your rooting interest, it’s hard not to feel good for Rutgers QB Mike Teel, who capped a rocky career in Piscataway with a torrid finish and an MVP trophy in the PapaJohns.com Bowl. The same Teel who bottomed out after taking an on-field swipe at teammate Glen Lee in September was a microcosm for the Knights’ second-half push to the postseason. Virtually unstoppable in November, he rallied Rutgers one last time on Monday, bringing the program back from a 17-6 halftime deficit and finishing the game 22-of-37 for 320 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. While maddeningly inconsistent, he wound up being a picture of perseverance, and those three straight bowl wins as the starter are the only three in RU history. That alone puts him in a special place in school lore, which no errant pass can erase. - Richard Cirminiello        
5. This bowl game presented the participating head coaches with several challenges, and all things considered, N.C. State's Tom O'Brien and Rutgers's Greg Schiano performed well under fire. Neither coach was perfect, but O'Brien and Schiano hit the target more often than not.
O'Brien smartly saved his injured stud, Russell Wilson, for 2009, and then had the wisdom to pull Harrison Beck and insert Daniel Evans in the fourth quarter. Yes, O'Brien had no business chasing a relatively meaningless point (after a touchdown) when up 23-19 with 9:21 left in regulation, but on a larger level, the Wolfpack remained competitive because their coach came prepared. O'Brien lost this bowl game, but there's a reason why the former Marine won bowls in seven consecutive seasons at Boston College.
Schiano, for his part, treated a bowl game the right way. He and offensive coordinator John McNulty left no plays in the grab bag, a generally appropriate approach for a one-shot postseason contest against an unfamiliar opponent. Yeah, there were times when billy-basic plays would have been good enough for the Scarlet Knights, but one still has to admire the aggressiveness demonstrated by Schiano and his staff. College football prospers when coaches treat bowls as a big deal. The people associated with these games witness an attractive product (which this game was) as a result. Even more important, fans acquire a fair bit of bang for the hard-earned dollars they spend on air fare, hotel rooms, and game tickets.
In terms of getting his team to the finish line first, Schiano's best move came when he ran the ball on a third-and-goal from the Wolfpack 3 with just under 1:40 left in regulation, and his team nursing a 26-23 lead. The use of roughly 50 extra seconds limited N.C. State's ability to mount a comeback. Schiano wisely concluded that it was more important to drain clock than to try a pass at a time when NCSU had been drained of its timeouts. While Schiano's subsequent decision to kick a field goal on fourth down left something to be desired--the move would have made a lot more sense if Rutgers led by only one or two points, and not three, at the time--it still remains that RU's head coach increased his team's chances of winning in the endgame phase of this contest.
Rutgers' football program received a measure of off-field healing on Monday with the appointment of interim athletic director Carl Kirshner. Thanks to Greg Schiano's decision making, the Scarlet Knights gained a dose of on-field pain relief as well. - Matthew Zemek