DETROIT– Playing in their first season in the Big Ten Conference, Rutgers (8-5), overwhelmed North Carolina 40-21, in the first ever Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field. The Scarlet Knights were playing in their third straight bowl game under Coach Kyle Flood. The crowd was light but the action was heavy and well received as the game was played to a national television audience on ESPN2.
Rutgers was led by two freshmen running backs. Bowl MVP Josh Hicks, rushed for 202 yards on 19 carries. Teammate Robert Martin ran for 100 yards on 19 carries, including TD runs of 8 and 28. The rushing totals for both Martin and Hicks were career highs and the team total was 340 rushing yards.
After the contest, Hicks complimented his blockers and gave the defense plenty of credit also, “I felt our defense showed up tonight and did a great job. They practice hard every day and it all paid off tonight for us.”
The defense for Rutgers was dominant, especially the play of senior strong safety Lorenzo Waters. Besides his game-high 14 tackles, he forced two first-half fumbles and blocked a 31-yard field goal attempt. Senior defensive end Dave Milewski and junior defensive end Djwany Mera were outstanding in stopping the Tar Heels rushing game. The 6’4” Milewski was in on seven tackles.
Rutgers scored on the game’s opening possession with senior quarterback Gary Nova throwing a 34-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Andre Patton to highlight a 75-yard drive. Rutgers then had the momentum and they certainly continued to press on as Nova finished with 184 air yards and two touchdown passes.
North Carolina (6-7) never got started as duel threat junior quarterback Marquise Williams was bottled up by the Scarlet Knights defense. After falling behind, 40-7, the Tar Heels scored two touchdowns in the final 6:45.
After the game, Coach Flood told his team to stay on the field with the Quick Lane Bowl winning trophy as long as you like. He said smiling, “Soak this great feeling up.”
North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said, “Well, it’s not the way we want to finish up a season, but it is what it is. So, hopefully, we’re going to learn from it and become a better football team.”
Milewski spoke about being away for Christmas. We had a Polish family style Christmas dinner (Wigilia) at my father’s house in New Jersey before we left. I tried to explain the custom of opłatek (wafers) to some of my teammates but they didn’t catch on, so it was easier to extend best wishes and good health to everyone for the New Year.”
“It feels great, no better way to finish a career than with a win, especially in a great bowl like this,” Milewski said after the game. “They put on a great show for us. It was a phenomenal experience and I’m happy that we won the inaugural game. It’s a big deal.”
“I felt like on both sides of the ball we were feeding off of each other and the momentum was on our side in the first half and we got hot, Milewski added.”
Coach Flood was thrilled for Milewski. Flood praised his honor student, “David’s a special football player, somebody who has overcome three different ACL injuries to be a starter for us the last two years and our team captain and first-team academic All-American,” Flood added, “He’s the face of the program and he’s one of the leaders of our program. From a character standpoint, if you were building what’s right about college football and what college football should be, it would be David.”