DALLAS — Rutgers freshman Justin Goodwin’s 17-yard touchdown run gave the Scarlet Knights a 55-52 victory over SMU in three overtimes Saturday.
The Knights survived SMU’s rallies from two 21-point deficits in the first game in the new American Athletic Conference for both Rutgers (4-1 overall) and the Mustangs (1-4).
SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert led the comeback with a career-high five touchdown passes. He added a game-tying 2-point conversion pass with 1:19 remaining in regulation, two rushing touchdowns in overtime and a Mustangs-record 484 passing yards.
Rutgers matched Gilbert’s overtime scores with two touchdown passes to Leonte Carroo from Gary Nova, who totaled four scoring passes and a rushing touchdown.
In the third overtime, the Knights held SMU to five yards on the first three plays. Head coach June Jones chose to have Chase Hover attempt a 37-yard field goal, which gave the Mustangs a 52-49 lead.
Goodwin came off the bench to score three touchdowns and account for 222 yards from scrimmage. The true freshman from Summit, N.J., had played in only two of Rutgers’ first four games, carrying 7 times for 44 yards.
Goodwin entered on the Knights’ second offensive series to catch a pass from Nova for 23 yards. After that, Goodwin totaled 149 yards and two touchdowns in 24 carries, and two catches for 73 yards and a TD.
The Knights rolled up a 14-0 first-quarter lead with a 20-mile-per-hour wind at their backs. None of SMU’s five possessions in the first quarter began farther out than the 21 yard line; the average was the 13.
The Mustangs controlled the ball for 9:03 in that quarter, and equaled Rutgers’ 85 yards of offense but were unable to cross midfield and trailed 14-0.
The Knights’ second touchdown came when SMU, backed up to its 9 yard line, botched a snap and Rutgers’ Nadir Barnwell recovered the ball in the end zone.
Under duress, the Mustangs made their comeback going into that same wind.
Gilbert completed 45 of 71 passes with no interceptions. Three of his scoring passes went to Jeremy Johnson, who set an SMU record with 217 receiving yards on 18 catches. Darius Joseph scored on a 6-yard pass and Gilbert threw a 55-yarder to Keenan Holman on the Mustangs’ first offensive play of the second half.
Rutgers built its lead up to 35-14 before the Mustangs scored three touchdowns in the final 11:08.
Because kicker Chase Hover missed a point after, SMU had to go for a 2-pointer to tie the game. Gilbert scrambled back behind the 20-yard line to the right sideline and threw all the way across the field to Johnson in the back of the end zone for the tying points.