DALLAS (AP) — Rutgers freshman Justin Goodwin still had fresh legs in the seventh period of football Saturday.
As a result, he was able to break SMU tackles on the way to the game-winning 17-yard touchdown run as the Scarlet Knights won 55-52 in three overtimes.
“I was trying to keep a fresh back in the game,” Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood said. “We made them defend a lot of rushing attempts.”
The Knights gained 191 yards on 52 carries, including Goodwin’s 24 attempts, 149 yards and two rushing touchdowns off the bench. He also caught two passes for 73 yards and a touchdown.
In the first game for both teams in the new American Athletic Conference, Rutgers (4-1 overall) survived two SMU (1-4) rallies from 21-point deficits.
Before Saturday, Goodwin had played in only two college games, carrying seven times for 44 yards. Before the overtime, he scored his first two touchdowns – one rushing, one receiving – to help the Knights to a 35-14 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Mustangs quarterback Garrett Gilbert brought SMU back with three of his career-high five touchdown passes in the game’s final frame. He also threw for a 2-point conversion to tie the game with 1:19 remaining in regulation.
The teams traded touchdowns in each of the first two overtimes. In the third, Rutgers held SMU to Chase Hover’s 37-yard field goal.
Goodwin then re-entered the game on first and 15 following a Knights holding penalty, scampered 13 yards. On the next play from the 17, Goodwin found the end zone for a third time.
Goodwin said, “The offensive line, they did a great job with the creases and I was able to find them.”
“Ultimately the ball has to go to playmakers, and he showed us he’s a playmaker,” Flood said of Goodwin.
Gilbert and wide receiver Jeremy Johnson were SMU’s playmakers.
Gilbert set Mustangs records with 45 completions, 70 attempts and 484 passing yards. He also ran for both SMU touchdowns in overtime.
Johnson set an SMU record with 217 receiving yards and tied another with 18 catches. He had entered the game sixth in FBS with 8.5 receptions per game; that number now is up to 10.4.
The biggest play made was on the game-tying 2-point conversion. Garrett scrambled back behind the 20 yard line on the right sideline, where he unloaded a pass across the field to Johnson in the back of the end zone where the receiver came down with both feet in bounds.
SMU coach June Jones said, “There aren’t many guys that could’ve avoided the sack, ran out, then throw it all the way back across the field and make that play. Of course Jeremy showed great poise keeping his feet in bounds.”
The Mustangs had to go for that 2-pointer because Hover had missed the point after their third touchdown.
Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova ran for the game’s first touchdown and passed for four, including two in overtime to Leonte Carroo.
Nova completed 19 of 33 for 283 yards, with one interception. He helped the Knights lead 21-0 early in the second quarter, then added two more scores after SMU rallied within 7 points at 21-14.
“I’ve been playing college football for 3 years. I know it’s not over till they’re all double zeroes,” Nova said.
Knights linebacker Kevin Snyder said of SMU’s comeback, “We made a lot of mistakes. It didn’t seem like it was coming that fast. It just kept coming.”
On a day with a combined 1,032 yards of offense, Rutgers’ defense provided a touchdown. SMU, backed up to its 9 yard line in the first quarter, botched a snap and Nadir Barnwell recovered the ball in the end zone.
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