HOUSTON - Moments after Rutgers won a bowl game for the first time, coach Greg Schiano was already looking ahead to loftier goals. "We have a firm foundation now to take the next step," Schiano said. "There are still many things this program can do for the first time and we're all looking forward to it."
For now, Schiano will have to settle for celebrating another milestone victory that ended the school's most memorable season.
Ray Rice ran for 170 yards and a touchdown, Tim Brown caught two TD passes on Thursday night as the 16th-ranked Scarlet Knights beat Kansas State 37-10 in the Texas Bowl.
Linebacker Quintero Frierson returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage of the second half and Rutgers (11-2) cruised from there, earning an 11th victory for the second time in 137 mostly forgettable seasons. The Knights were 1-11 only four seasons ago and the freshmen on that team are now outgoing seniors.
"There was a focus tonight to make sure those seniors went out with No. 11," Schiano said. "That makes me more proud than anything. They were very focused and you could see that in the way they practiced (for the game). I didn't leave the field frustrated, not once."
Rice was named the Most Valuable Player after topping 100 yards for the 10th time this season and the 15th time in 25 career games. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound sophomore went over 150 yards for the fifth time this season.
"We've tasted it, tasted the water and it's a great feeling," Rice said. "We know what it took. We have tasted the victory in a bowl game and anything else will not be as successful."
Rutgers lost its two previous bowl appearances _ both against Arizona State _ 34-8 in the Garden State Bowl in 1978, and 45-40 in the Insight Bowl last year.
The Scarlet Knights' seventh-ranked defense manhandled Kansas State's offense, holding the Wildcats to 162 total yards and six first downs. Freshman quarterback Josh Freeman was 10-for-21 for 129 yards with two interceptions.
Kansas State (7-6) mustered only 85 yards after Frierson's return of Freeman's first interception put Rutgers up 24-10 just 33 seconds out of halftime.
"The defensive play there was critical," Kansas State coach Ron Prince said. "To have the opportunity to come out and tie the game at the start of the second half and the worst thing that could happen would be a turnover and a touchdown and that's what occurred."
The Wildcats' only touchdown came on Yamon Figurs' 76-yard punt return with 9:37 left in the second quarter.
The Scarlet Knights dropped two of their last three games after a 9-0 start. Their 41-39 triple-overtime loss to West Virginia cost them the Big East's automatic berth in the Bowl Championship Series.
The players admitted that making the Texas Bowl was a letdown after they came so close to one of the big-money bowls.
"It certainly hurt quite a bit after the West Virginia game," Schiano said. "But when you've only been to three bowl games in 137 years, it's exciting."
They looked like the more motivated team from the start, jumping to a 14-0 lead in the first 12 minutes on Brown's two TD catches. The freshman from Miami had only four catches and one TD reception coming into the game.
On the first play of the second quarter, Freeman found Jordy Nelson on a crossing route for a 33-yard gain to set up Jeff Snodgrass' 44-yard field goal.
Four minutes later, Figurs took Joe Radigan's punt up the middle, sidestepped Radigan and scored Kansas State's seventh special-teams touchdown of the season.
The Wildcats' offense had only one more yard at halftime (77) than Figurs gained on his punt return.
And then it got worse for the Wildcats.
Freeman was on the run when Frierson leaped to pick off his wobbly pass. Freeman's 14th interception of the season was his fifth in the Wildcats' last three games.
Rice burst through the line and ran untouched through the defense for 46 yards and his 20th touchdown of the season to make it 31-10 with 11:41 left in the third quarter, and that was more than enough for Rutgers.
The Wildcats' offense did nothing after that, failing to get a first down for the rest of the third quarter. Freshman Leon Patton, Kansas State's leading rusher, fumbled at the Wildcats' 22 near the end of the quarter, setting up the second of Jeremy Ito's three field goals.
Teel finished 16 for 28 for 268 yards without an interception. Brown had four catches for 101 yards and Clark Harris made seven catches for 120.
Kansas State was playing in a bowl for the 12th time in 14 seasons, but for the first time since the Fiesta Bowl following the 2003 season. The Wildcats dropped to 6-6 in those dozen.
"I think they were really hungry because they felt like they got left out of a BCS game," Freeman said of Rutgers. "They were out there to prove something and we weren't able to respond."