7:00 PM ET, September 27, 2003
High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, NJ
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) -- Rutgers celebrated its first 3-1 start since 1993 with a fireworks show.
Freshman Justise Hairston ran for 161 yards and four touchdowns as Rutgers beat Navy 48-27 on Saturday night.
Seconds after the final gun, fireworks filled the sky above Rutgers for a good 10 minutes.
"It's a much happier mood around here," said cornerback Brandon Haw, who returned a blocked field goal 88 yards for a touchdown early in the second half.
"It's a mood I have never experienced," the fifth-year senior added. "I'm so happy, it's bursting from my inside out. But that's not the goal right now. The goal for us is to keep doing this."
Hairston scored on runs of 3, 2, 4 and 10 yards, and Clarence Pittman ran for a touchdown and threw for another score for the Scarlet Knights, who won only three games over the past two years under coach Greg Schiano.
"I'm excited, but I'm most excited for the kids. They have been through so much," said Schiano, whose team's only loss was to Michigan State (4-1) on the road.
Rutgers, which has not had a winning season since going 7-4 in 1992, will get its biggest test next week when it faces No. 5 Virginia Tech (4-0).
Navy (2-2), which came into the game looking for its first 3-1 start since 1996, lost three fumbles and had two field goals and an extra point blocked.
"You can't go into a game and make that many mistakes and expect to win," said Navy slot back Eric Roberts, who ran 29 yards for a touchdown and caught a 55-yard scoring pass from receiver Andy Michalowicz on Navy's first play from scrimmage.
Navy's defense, which only gave up 34 points in its first three games, also struggled, giving up 404 yards, while being called for a pass interference in the end zone and being fooled on a halfback option for a TD.
"They ran the ball down our throats," said Navy safety Josh Smith, who lost a big fumble seconds after making a third-quarter interception. "We tried pretty much everything, but no matter what we ran there was a big hole there."
Hairston, a true freshman from New Britain, Conn., gave Rutgers the lead for good at 21-14 by capping a 13-play, 67-yard drive with a 2-yard run.
Ryan Hart (14-of-21 for 140 yards) hit two third-down passes on the drive, which included a pass-interference penalty in the end zone on the play before Hairston scored with 4:34 left in the half.
Navy drove to the Rutgers 2 in the closing seconds of the half, but a procedure penalty stalled the drive and linebacker Brian Bender blocked a 22-yard field-goal attempt by Geoff Blumenfeld.
The Mids took the opening kickoff in the second half and drove to the Rutgers 6. Blumenfeld's 23-yard attempt was blocked by Jarvis Johnson, and Haw scooped up the ball and ran down the right sidelines for a 28-14 lead.
"We were our own worst enemy," Navy coach Paul Johnson said. "The score should have been tied at halftime, but we shot ourselves in the foot and then Rutgers blocked the kick."
Eckel cut it to 28-21 on Navy's next possession, but Hairston scored twice early in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
The first touchdown came after Smith intercepted a pass and then fumbled, giving the Scarlet Knights the ball right back.
"You set goals for yourself, but I never expected anything like this," said Hairston, who carried 31 times.
The 48 points were the most for Rutgers since a 59-0 win over Buffalo to start the 2000 season. The win also snapped a seven-game Rutgers losing streak following a week off.
Despite being embarrassed on flea flicker on Navy's first play from scrimmage, Rutgers bounced back with a trick of its own and took a 21-14 halftime lead.
Pittman hit tight end Chris Loomis on a 15-yard halfback option pass to tie it at 7 and Hairston twice gave Rutgers the lead with touchdown runs of 3 and 2 yards.
Navy scored on its first play. Craig Candeto pitched the ball to Michalowicz on an end around and the former quarterback found Roberts all alone.