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A Scarlet Knight: Rutgers takes down Miami in Pinstripe Bowl

Rutgers Scarlet Knights celebrate their Pinstripe Bowl victory over the Miami Hurricanes at Yankee Stadium - Image Credit: Rutgers Football/Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl

BRONX, NY — The Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl featuring the Miami Hurricanes and Rutgers Scarlet Knights went right down to the wire this past Thursday afternoon as 35,314 were in attendance to witness “New York’s Bowl Game,” at Yankee Stadium. During the final drive of the game with the majority of those fans standing on their feet, Rutgers sealed the deal over Miami to win 31-24 — securing their seventh-ever Bowl victory in program history (first since 2014). 

Following the historic win, Scarlet Knights head coach Greg Schiano stated: “To the Yankees and Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe, we’re very grateful. The week was awesome. First class, everything they did. We’ve known them for a long time now. This is, heck, 15 years probably. Just really good people. First class — I’m glad that Miami and Rutgers could put on a good game for them because bowl games I think are still critically important.”

“I don’t buy that they go away. If you were in that locker room seeing those kids celebrate, bowl games are really important, and that will be a memory for those guys. Most guys don’t go play after college. There will be a bunch of them that will never play another snap, and that will be their last memory of football in college. It couldn’t end any better.”

Speaking of memories and cherishing special moments, there were several from this year’s edition of the Pinstripe Bowl, however; the two that stand out the most to yours truly are: “The Blocked Punt Heard Around The World,” and the dominant performance all game long by Scarlet Knights’ junior running back Kyle Monangai. 

The Blocked Punt Heard Around The World

In the third quarter precisely at the 5:14 minute mark with the Hurricanes leading 17-14, and opting to kick it away at their own 12 yard line, Rutgers’ Trevor Yeboah-Kodie, and Timmy Ward, had alternate plans in laying their imprints on the game. 

An immaculate turn of events for the Scarlet Knights in the blink of an eye, thanks to Yeboah-Kodie and Ward…

And just to gain more background on their stories: the Garden City, New York native Yeboah-Kodie, played four years of Lacrosse at Brown University, then transferred to Rutgers to attempt a comeback on the gridiron during his extra-year of eligibility, participating in another sport. Meanwhile his teammate Ward, out of Canton, Pennsylvania, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in high school, and successfully beat it, then followed up by enrolling into Rutgers, and becoming a team equipment manager for the football program. He then, after almost a year-and-a-half, made the team during walk-on try-outs. Simply incredible. 

Timmy Ward recovers the blocked punt from his Rutgers teammate Trevor Yeboah-Kodie, returning it for six, and the lead in the 3rd quarter of the Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium – Image Credit: Rutgers Football

“So the story behind Trevor Yeboah-Kodie, I coached his dad and his uncle at a different school in Pennsylvania that’s in our league,” said Schiano, who coached in multiple NFL organizations as well as at Penn State and Ohio State University. “His dad reached out to me and said, ‘my son has another year of eligibility. He was a Lacrosse player at Brown. Really good Lacrosse player.’”

“I said, ‘yeah, let me look at his tape.’ All he had was his high school tape. I looked at it and said, ‘oh, I wish I had gotten him out of high school. He is a really good player.’ He came, and he was really a special teams specialist. He was on almost every — I think he was on every special team. You could see the joy that he got by playing football because he hadn’t played it for four years. Last time he played it he was a senior in high school. Every practice, every game, and for him to block it.” 

“And then the guy that recovered it, Timmy Ward, you local guys know the story, but Ward, high school kid, gets cancer, beats cancer, comes to Rutgers, and wants to play football at Rutgers. So he starts as an equipment manager. He is an equipment manager for like a year and a half. He goes to the walk-on try-outs, and my guys who run the walk-on try-outs come to me and say, ‘hey, look, the equipment manager, he can run. He is a good athlete. We ought to give him a chance.’ 

I said, ‘yeah, let’s give him a chance.’ He is the brains of the outfit now. He runs the punt block team. He makes all the checks. For him to recover that and score the touchdown, those two guys are kind of very symbolic of who we are. Just a hard-working group. We believe in chopping and doing your work, and preparation gives you a chance when the opportunity presents. I couldn’t be more happy for two guys that deserve it.”

“I’m just super grateful,” Ward stated. “I’ve gone through a lot of stuff over the years, and to come in the way that I did, this moment is honestly insane. I can’t even wrap my head around it right now. All the credit goes to all my teammates, everybody.”

“This means the world, especially with these guys,” said Yeboah-Kodie. “I honestly never thought I would be in this position. But throughout the year we kept working. I gave credit to all my teammates for believing me and trusting in me, and also Coach Schiano for trusting in me. This has been an unbelievable experience, and I can’t wait to celebrate with these guys.”

Kyle Monangai wins Henry George “Hank” Steinbrenner II Most Valuable Player Award

An all around styled running back, born and raised in New Jersey, who can take contact and make defenses pay on their missed assignments? That’s Kyle Monangai, the B1G Conference rushing yards leader for 2023. Throughout the day, the Don Bosco Prep High School product, compiled 163 yards on 25 carries to go along with a rushing TD, and 17 receiving yards — just missing out on breaking his career-high in rushing yards for a game, which is 165 (Sept. 9th, 2023 vs. Temple University.) 

“It’s a testament to the guys that I play with on offense,” Monangai said after being named the 2023 Pinstripe Bowl MVP, joining Jawan Jamison as the only two Rutgers players to achieve the feat. “I think I played a great game, but I think the guys up front played an even better game honestly, and they set the tone from the first drive, receivers were blocking well in the perimeter, and I was able to follow their lead.”

He also mentioned just how much playing, and succeeding in his ‘backyard,’ basically a few train stops away from Rutgers, means to him: “I love the fact that I can say I’m from Jersey, I go to school in Jersey, I was raised here, grew up here, and I was able to do things well in my home state. And now getting this win at Yankee Stadium. I know it’s New York, but it’s like it feels like home still, just across the water.”

College Football History at Yankee Stadium

-The Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl on Thursday afternoon marked the 22nd-ever College Football game played at Yankee Stadium (opened in 2009). The Old Yankee Stadium featured 185 Collegiate Football Games, starting in 1923, and ending in 1987.

Robert Rizzo is a journalist and editor of Latino Sports – Email: RobertRiz994@gmail.com

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