Running Back Ray Rice Leads Rutgers Against Ball State In International Bowl

Rice has yet to announce whether he'll skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft

Jan. 4, 2008

TORONTO (AP) - The International Bowl could be the perfect showcase for Rutgers running back Ray Rice.

The Scarlet Knights' all-time leading rusher will line up Saturday against a Ball State defense that ranked 99th in the nation against the run this season, giving up nearly 200 yards a game.

"Any game Ray takes the field could be a big game for him," offensive tackle Jeremy Zuttah said. "On any play, he can go the distance, make a whole bunch of guys miss."

Rice has made a college career of that. The two-time Associated Press second-team All-American ran for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns in his junior season with the Scarlet Knights (7-5). He has yet to announce whether he'll skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft. Players who choose to declare for the draft must do so by Jan. 15.

Rice ran for 1,120 yards as a freshman in 2005, then followed that with 1,794 yards as a sophomore as Rutgers went 11-2 in 2006.

"He's a tremendous football player," Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano said of Rice. "He's everything you could ask for in a running back, and as a person."

Ball State coach Brady Hoke said his team's defense will be the key to containing Rice and the Rutgers offense.

"They've got a great offensive line, they're very athletic," Hoke said. "(Rice) is a tremendous back and a guy that we've got to try and grapple if we can, get on him and get a lot of people to him."

The Cardinals (7-5) will try to move the ball through the air, with sophomore quarterback Nate Davis looking downfield for wide receiver Dante Love and tight end Darius Hill.

Davis threw for 3,376 yards this season and had 27 touchdowns against just six interceptions.

"This kid is as good as we've played," Schiano said, "and the skill kids that he's throwing it to are as well. It's a big challenge. When you look at the numbers, nobody has stopped them. You've just got to try to contain them a little bit."


 

 

If anyone can stop Ball State's aerial attack, it's Rutgers, which ranked second in the country in pass defense, behind only Ohio State.

"It's going to be a very good matchup," Rutgers linebacker Brandon Renkart said. "Hopefully our D-line will have a good pass rush and force (Davis) into some bad decisions."

Hoke knows his line must give Davis protection for the Cardinals to succeed.

"I know they'll come at us with a lot of pressure," Hoke said. "We've got to be able to pick it up and block."

After failing to duplicate the success of last season, Rutgers will be looking for redemption Saturday. Even more so after its regular season ended with a 41-38 loss to Louisville, a game in which Rutgers let an 18-point third-quarter lead slip away.

"The Louisville game left a sour taste in our mouths," senior defensive tackle Eric Foster said. "We don't want the world to think that was the Rutgers football team. We want to leave this last game with people knowing that we are a team to be reckoned with."

Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel has been bothered by a sore hand and wide receiver Kenny Britt had his knee scoped following the regular season, but Schiano said both have benefited from a five-week layoff.

"We're probably as healthy as we've been in a long time," Schiano said. "Mike is feeling good, Kenny is feeling good."

Britt is Rutgers' leader with 1,107 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 56 catches.

It's Ball State's first postseason game in 11 years. The Cardinals' last bowl appearance was an 18-15 loss to Nevada in the 1996 Las Vegas Bowl, and are 0-4-1 in bowl games.

"It's been a long time in coming," Hoke said. "It's something we'd like to make an annual event."

This is the second International Bowl, the only NCAA Division I football game played outside the United States. Cincinnati beat Western Michigan 27-24 in last year's event.

Fanstore.com