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Youthful Rutgers shows future promise

At first glance, the 2011 New Era Pinstripe Bowl made you wonder how offensively inept Iowa State ever upset Oklahoma State when the Cowboys were No. 2 in the country and seemed headed for the BCS Championship game. The Cyclones (6-7) were anything but world-beaters in their 27-13 loss to Rutgers Friday evening at Yankee Stadium.

But before you file this away as one of many ho-hum bowl matchups between mediocre teams, take a look at who was making most of the big plays for the Scarlet Knights (9-4). The most familiar name, of course, is junior wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (6 catches for 62 yards). And the quarterback rotation between sophomore Chas Dodd (10 of 17 for 176 yards and one TD) and freshman Gary Nova (3 of 7 for 20 yards and Rutgers' only two third-down conversions) is a little unsettling.

But how about the contributions of freshman running back Jawan Jamison (27 carries for 131 yards and two TDs), freshman wide receiver Brandon Coleman (one catch for the game-clinching 86-yard TD), sophomore cornerback Logan Ryan (one interception, two passes defensed, half a sack, seven tackles, two and a half tackles for a loss) and freshman linebacker Kevin Snyder (five tackles, one and a half tackles for a loss, half a sack).

Junior linebacker Khaseem Greene, co-defensive player of the year in the Big East, suffered what looked like a serious ankle injury near the end of the game, but coach Greg Schiano said the initial evaluation was that he will be ready when his senior season rolls around. Defensive tackle Scott Vallone of Central Islip also will be back to provide senior leadership.

The number of talented young players who have shown they can contribute in a big way could translate into something much bigger next season. "It gives me hope that we will have a good football team moving forward," Schiano said. "We have been a pretty consistent program, going to bowl games, winning bowl games, and we have to get to the next level.

"I hope that this group of players is the group that will get us over the top and get us to the championship level."

Coleman (pictured in an earlier game at South Florida) said he spent this season learning to believe that he could succeed at the major-college level. The play he made to put the Pinstripe Bowl win out of reach only can build his confidence along with the rest of the team.

"This is a jump start to next year," Coleman said. "We have something to look forward to."