COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Rutgers followed a difficult week with a miserable first half, then rallied together to pull out a victory that had them shouting and dancing with delight.
Valentino Ambrosio kicked the tying field goal at the end of regulation and accounted for the only points in overtime, drilling a 42-yarder to carry Rutgers past error-prone Maryland 27-24 Saturday.
Bo Melton scored two touchdowns for the Scarlet Knights (3-5, 3-5 Big Ten). Rutgers was blanked in the first half and trailed twice in the fourth quarter before coming back to force overtime.
After Ambrosio opened the extra session with a field goal, Maryland’s Joseph Petrino misfired on a 50-yard attempt. Immediately after the kick sailed wide left, the Scarlet Knights collectively stormed the field to celebrate.
“When we started this week, this was a really fatigued team. not just physically but emotionally,” coach Greg Schiano said. “We had three of our players lose loved ones this week, two to COVID. It’s been a tough week for all these kids. But they did exactly what we asked them to do: They kept fighting.”
Starting quarterback Noah Vedral left with an apparent concussion and was replaced by Artur Sitkowski, who finished 12 for 19 for 90 yards with a touchdown pass to Isaih Pacheco. Most importantly, the 6-foot-5 junior directed two scoring drives in the fourth quarter and another in overtime.
“To get us to overtime and then to win the game, that’s a real good job,” Schiano said.
Sitkowski moved the Scarlet Knights 61 yards to set up a 39-yard field goal by Ambrosio on the final play of the fourth quarter.
That drive — as well as Rutgers’ march in overtime — was aided by Maryland penalties. The Terrapins were flagged nine times for 104 yards in the second half and twice more for 30 yards in overtime.
The penalties, along with a pair of turnovers, were too much for the Terrapins (2-3, 2-3) to overcome.
“The thing I’m most disappointed in is that good teams don’t beat themselves,” coach Michael Locksley said. “We continue to be a team that does not play with discipline.”
Jake Funk ran for 180 yards and third-string quarterback Eric Najarian threw a pair of touchdown passes for Maryland.
It was only the second game in five weeks for the Terrapins, who sandwiched a loss to Indiana around three cancellations since Nov. 7.
Maryland was without starting quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, who was scratched because of an “illness,” according to the team. Starting linebacker Chance Campbell missed the game for the same reason.
Tagovailoa, a redshirt freshman, has seven touchdown passes and seven interceptions in his first season with the Terrapins after transferring from Alabama. If Tagovailoa tested positive for COVID-19, he must also sit out next week’s add-on game against a Big Ten West opponent.
Freshman Lance LeGendre started and went 7 for 13 with two interceptions. Najarian finished up, completing 13 of 24 passes for 224 yards, but he was sacked four times
Najarian’s biggest pass was to Brian Cobbs, who scored his first touchdown to give the Terps a 24-21 lead with 5:57 left.
“I thought we played hard but we didn’t play very smart,” Locksley said. “We’ll come back next week try to get back to .500.”
A LONG TREK
It’s been a long, long season for Rutgers, one of few Big Ten teams to play the entire eight-game regular-season schedule, and it didn’t get easier as they neared the finish line.
“They fought through a lot of things,” Schiano said. “This whole week ends up being a life lesson for our guys.”
It wasn’t easy for Schiano, either.
“I’m going to get on this bus and fall asleep,” he said. “I’m shot.”
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights showed all that is good and bad during the first year of a rebuild under Schiano. The defense was strong in the first half and the offense scored three TDs after halftime.
Maryland: This game showed just how badly the Terrapins need Tagovailoa taking snaps from center. Maryland’s passing game was ineffective and out of sync, but Funk provided relief as a force on the ground.
The Big Ten instituted a plus-one game for the teams not participating in the conference title game. The matchups and sites are expected to be announced Sunday.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25