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Senior walk-on scores big for Rutgers in St. Petersburg Bowl

ST. PETERSBURG — Billy Anderson wasn't even supposed to be on the field.

The fifth-year senior walk-on made a game-changing play for Rutgers late in the first half Saturday, intercepting a Brett Hodges pass and returning it 19 yards for a touchdown to extend the Scarlet Knights' lead to 28-17 at halftime of the St. Petersburg Bowl at Tropicana Field.

Anderson was on the field only because All-Big East CB Devin McCourty had left the game with an eye injury in the first quarter.

It was the second career interception for a player who entered the game with 19 tackles this season. He earned a spot on the two-deep depth chart after playing sparingly in his first three seasons.

Trailing 21-17, UCF got the ball with 1:46 to play in the half at its 13-yard line. On the first play, Hodges threw his second interception of the half.

Anderson took it in for a touchdown and got mobbed in the end zone in front of the Rutgers corner of the stadium.

"As soon as I caught it, I saw an open lane, and I just thought, 'Get to the end zone,' " Anderson said.

"Next thing I know, everyone is jumping on me."

Rutgers entered the game leading the nation in turnover margin, and the Scarlet Knights converted two takeaways into 14 points in the first half.

ALL FOR NAUGHT: Because the game is in just its second season, setting a St. Petersburg Bowl record means only so much, but UCF's Quincy McDuffie set the longest kickoff return record with a 64-yarder on the opening kickoff.

USF's Dontavia Bogan had a 56-yard return against Memphis last season.

UCF then turned the ball over on its third offensive play, with Rutgers LB Damaso Munoz intercepting a Hodges pass.

rutgers record: Rutgers, playing in its sixth bowl game, set a bowl record for the school when QB Tom Savage and WR Tim Brown hooked up for a 65-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

It's the longest pass play in a Rutgers bowl game. Brown caught a 49-yard pass from Mike Teel in the Texas Bowl in 2006.

IN PROGRESS: ESPN's national TV audience didn't get to see the start of the game because in the game that preceded it, the New Mexico Bowl, Wyoming need two overtimes to beat Fresno State 35-28.

As a result, viewers didn't get to see the first five minutes of the St. Petersburg Bowl. They joined the action in time to see WR Mohamed Sanu's 5-yard touchdown run for Rutgers.

THIS AND THAT: Rutgers receivers coach Brian Jenkins won't be back in New Jersey for long. He has been named the coach at Bethune-Cookman, replacing Alvin Wyatt. … Rutgers junior T Anthony Davis may have played his last college game. He has been projected as a likely top-15 pick should he enter the NFL draft.

Senior walk-on scores big for Rutgers in St. Petersburg Bowl 12/19/09 [Last modified: Sunday, December 20, 2009 12:16am]

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