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Unbelievable! Rutgers Upends # 3 Louisville, 28-25!
Drives 91 yards for FG with :13 left!
The Birthplace of College Football, New Brunswick, NJ - Unbelievable! Stunning! Thrilling! Great game no matter how you look at it! All these describe the wild emotions and the great team efforts witnessed this Thursday night as Rutgers (9-0, 4-0), perennial laughing stock of college football by CFF among others, played a hell of a football game to defeat #3-ranked Louisville (8-1, 3-1). RU drove 91 yards for a 28-yard FG with :13 remaining to finish victorious, 28-25. Then, their stalwart defense sacked LU QB Brian Brohm on the final play of the game, and the field at Rutgers Stadium flooded in Scarlet as exuberant students and fans rushed on the field to celebrate with their still undefeated team! RU now sits atop the Big East Conference and waits to see how far up the polls this win will take them. CFF was happy to be part of the biggest college football game played in the state of New Jersey since 1869! It was the highest peak in the 137th year of one of the nation's two oldest football programs. And, there's plenty of good football still left this year.
Seven minutes into the first quarter, RB Anthony Allen capped Louisville's initial drive of the game starting from their own 20 with a two-yard TD run. Art Carmody converted the point after. Guest Game Analyst Frank Scarpa, long suffering RU fan and Rutgers-Newark alum, had already noted the quickness of the right side of Louisville's line from our seats high up in section 116. The Louisville line was dominating. It gave All-America QB Brian Brohm plenty of time to find his receivers early in the game. An interception by DB Gavin Smart of a Mike Teel pass (8 for 21, 189 yards, 1 TD and at least 4 dropped passes) was offset by RU LB Devraun Thompson who picked off Brohm (13 of 27, 1 TD and 163 yards) and returned the pigskin 32 yards to the Louisville 26. On the very next play, Teel connected in the end zone with WR Tiquan Underwood for a quick Rutgers retaliation. PK Jeremy Ito converted and the score was tied. But the Cardinals were not to be held down. Return man JaJuan Spillman fielded the ball at his goal line and started up the middle where several RU defenders got bunched up and taken out. He then cut to his right to go one on one with the Kicker Ito who was no match for Spillman's speed as he raced 100 yards for the second Louisville TD of the game. The scarlet-clad, record crowd of 44,111 at Rutgers went from ecstasy to solemnity in a span of a little over an ESPN commercial break. Exuberance rose slightly again as the middle of the RU line blocked the extra point, but the joy quickly subsided as Allen picked up the ball and fell into the end zone for a two-point conversion. The Cardinals led, 15-7. As the first period was close to over, Louisville set up to punt from its own 45, but the snap went directly to blocking back Nate Harris who charged up the middle to the RU 40 for a Cardinal first down.
In the second quarter, LU continued the drive as RB Kolby Smith (19 carries, 84 yards) converted a fourth and three at the RU 33 for a first down. Brohm connected with WR Jimmy Riley for a five-yard TD pass. Carmody kicked the extra point in the solitude of Rutgers Stadium as the #3 Cardinals built their lead, 22-7. RU WR Kenny Britt dropped a pass on a third down conversion which caused RU to punt from its own 24. LU took over on its own 30. Rutgers defense seemed to stiffen as the Cardinals neared the goal line before Carmody nailed a FG from 39 yards away to extend their lead, 25-7, with 6:34 remaining. It was looking as if the Scarlet Knights had finally met their match after a great 8-0 start. The crowd was quiet, but the spirit on the sideline was still intact. James Townsend returned the ensuing kickoff out to the 41 to get things stirred up a little at Rutgers Stadium. On second and eight, Teel threw a screen over the middle to RB Kordell Young who turned immediately up field before he was tackled at the Louisville 17. The QB found that he could depend on a freshman to hold on to his passes. On the next play, the RU play action went right, Teel turned back and pitched left to RB Ray Rice (22 carries for 131 and 2 TDs) who was isolated on one lonely OLB. It was a beautiful play as Rice scampered around him and down the sideline for 17-yard TD run. Ito kicked the PAT to trail the Cardinals, 25-14. RU took control again at their own four after a Louisville punt. Rice came up limping as the Knights decided to play it safe and run out the clock as time expired to end the half. RU fans were concerned about missing their key running back earlier in the game. Many wondered how his ankle was holding up after some serious swelling during the UConn game. He would be back in the second half.
The Rutgers band put on a short half-time performance followed by an awards ceremony to twenty-four RU student athletes who lettered and maintained a 3.4 grade average. First of all, it was amazing how many Exercise Methodology and Sports Science majors received these awards at the State University of New Jersey. Didn't we used to call them Phys Ed majors? Secondly, several honored were from the crew team, tennis, and the swimming teams, programs that will be axed by the university due to budget cuts at the end of this school year. Why not take some of the money from the revenues to be generated by several upcoming TV games just announced for the football team and allocate it to some of these lesser sports. Football seems to be on its way up, especially with a possible BCS Bowl looming. If RU gets basketball on track with new coach Fred Hill, maybe they can even get the Sprint Football program revived (keep dreaming)!
Louisville received the opening kick-off, but it was Rutgers who got things started off with a bang! S Zaire Kitchen laid a hard lick on the return man at the Louisville 19. He seemed to bring some impetus out of the locker room because the Knights hit hard, fast and often in the second half. The tough Rutgers D forced the Cardinal offense out in three plays on three consecutive series. RU's offense, on the other hand, continued to have a case of the "dropsies" as even TE Clark Harris, an All-American candidate, muffed one in his gut that could have been good for a first down. Harris's streak of 38 consecutive games with a catch ended here this evening. On the next RU series, Teel relied on another Frosh to make a big pay as pointed out by our GGA, when he hit WR Kenny Britt with a short pass. Britt turned it into a big play covering 74 yards to the LU four as he picked up the last few recovering his own fumble. Rice finished the drive with a four-yard TD run. Head Coach Greg Schiano decided to get within a FG and went for two. The call and the play were successful as Teel fired to WR Dennis Campbell for the two-point conversion. The momentum shift could be felt. RU trailed only 25-22. Louisville's JaJuan Spillman almost came up with a big return again, but it was Zaire Kitchen who came up with a big special team play again as he stopped the speedster with a shoe string tackle. The RU defense was still on board as they forced another punt after three downs on third and eleven. The third quarter expired with the Cardinals sitting on top with their dwindling three-point lead.
Rutgers defense continued to hit hard into the fourth quarter. LU lost eleven yards from the start of its next series before they would punt again from their own 16. The punt put Rutgers at their own 38. On the legs of Ray Rice, the Knights got down to the Louisville 29 where PK Jeremy "Judge" Ito was called in to do the damage. He nailed the 46-yarder down the middle with room to spare. The Scarlet Knights had tied the Cardinals, 25-25. At this point both teams were 8-0-1 on the season, but it can't end that way anymore. As a matter of fact, we learned that from the Cardinals last time we saw them play at another Thursday night game in 1999 where we saw them falter in our first OT game ever, to Army, 59-52, our highest scoring game on record. We knew the momentum for Rutgers continued to grow when Ito's kick-off went through the end zone for a touchback, but what we also saw was that every player on that RU kick off team ran all the way to the end line of the end zone before returning to the bench. It indicated that they were ready and in condition, that they would not fold in the end as in previous seasons as depicted by Frank Scarpa, wearing his RU ball cap with the specific R for the Newark-Rutgers campus that he's proud to point out. Louisville finally put some positive yards together before punting to RU at the home team's 42. A high, short punt put the Knights on their own nine-yard line with 5:28 left in the game. One RU fan screamed "What's he doing?" as Teel completed a pass to Underwood. He was relieved with the result. On a third and six, RU came up with a big play as Teel hit FB Brian Leonard in the right flat with a swing pass, his only reception of the night, and the big back sped 26 yards to the LU 39. With 1:44 left, RU was on the brink of Ito's FG range. The time-out by RU paid off as Rice bolted up the middle on the next play for a 20-yard run to the Cardinal 19. The writing was on the wall. Frank observed three NJ State Troopers escort the Louisville Cardinal mascot out of Rutgers Stadium, feathers intact! RU centered the ball between the hash marks with a fourth and seven at the sixteen with :21 left. Like a basketball game with a critical free throw at the end, the fans encouraged quiet. We saw the Louisville left DE jump way offsides before Ito hooked his attempt wide left, and thought the distraction caused the missed. Five yards closer, the crowd was silenced, Ito's kick was up and true! The crowd went crazy! :13 remained! One student got to feel the wrath of NJ State Troopers as he ran out past the Cardinal bench on to the field to jump up and down. As he returned to the sidelines, NJ's finest made an example of him as they slammed him into the ground face first and cuffed him right alongside the Louisville bench. Had that happened before the game, we don't think Louisville would have raced off to such a quick start! Louisville received the kick-off. One play was run, and scarlet-clad students rushed the field, but wait, :01 remained! Security cleared the field as long-suffering RU fans yelled to the younger students to get off the field! They didn't want anything to screw up the savory of this victory for them. The yellow-jacketed security force surrounded both goal posts. Syracuse will be here on Thanksgiving weekend. A few minutes later, Brohm dropped back to pass, and down he went! Scarlet rushed the field from both end zones. It was a long awaited day that Rutgers would win such an important, thrilling football victory to vault them into the higher echelon of "Big Time" Football!
They're there now and they deserve it. It's time for the pollsters to take notice, but if they don't, the Knights have three more chances to prove themselves before anyone says that they don't deserve a chance to play in the big one. This will be fun to follow. We're now even more disappointed that we couldn't pull off the Big Tailgate at the Syracuse game. On December 2, we'll see how the Knights measure up when they play at tough West Virginia. Savor this win for a day or so because even the Cincinnati Bearcats coming up are no longer the patsies they used to be. Well be watching. The Cardinals still play bowl-bound South Florida and Pitt before finishing up with UConn this season. The Big East will make a statement this year with WVU, Louisville, and now, unbelievably, Rutgers among the nation's best! We take it a notch down on Saturday to the Ivies, where we'll see the other team stat started this Saturday collegiate tradition back in 1869 when the former Rutgers rival, Princeton, knocks heads with Yale for an Ivy League title shot. We hope that the action on the field is as exciting as this one!
Extra Points: The parking situation was out of control for the record-breaking crowd on the RU campus. The overflow trying to park at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) was diverted allover campus. We were directed passed the RAC lots and found parking at a dorm area called the Quads. We figured the security people would have bigger issues than parking this night, and we were right. We were probably half a mile from the RAC to catch a shuttle bus to the stadium at about 7:20 with game time slated for 7:47 ESPN time. We lucked out as a regular bus pulled up to the front of the Quads and boarded with other fans and students who wondered if this would get us to the stadium Enough people let the drive know that's where we were all heading, but he ran his regular route to the Busch campus where we got off and hoofed it to the stadium with hundreds of others. We made it to the stadium in time, but getting around when inside was the tough part. The people who designed some of the stadium entrances must be the same who designed the toll booths on the Garden State Parkway as people had to funnel through the narrower entrances. We did a couple lf u-turns to avoid congestion in the upper end zone to get to 116 as we found ourselves against and across traffic flow, It was a tight squeeze along the top of the stadium and somewhere along the way, I lost my cell phone never to be found again ( I was able to get a free upgrade any way the next day, but if I have any new messages during the game, I never got them). It was clear tat the stadium was not designed to allow easy traffic flow when a sell-out crowd converged to their seat all at once for the post-work/school start time. We got to our seats a few minutes before kick-off though we probably never sat until the second quarter as most fans stood in support during the first quarter. We note that RU seats are much more roomy than the seats at Beaver Stadium where they pack them more tightly leaving little elbow room, especially during cold weather games.
On our way in, we saw people parked all over. Across from the RAC along the adjacent road, people turned and parked cars head first in along a grassy lawn. Further along, people had to drive across a drainage ditch to get to that grassy parking area. Most vehicles made it across, but one car was "parked" nose down in the drainage ditch with its rear, left tire about three feet off the ground. The driver had his priorities straight as he /she was nowhere in sight. We guess they said to heck with it and went on into the game. If they put about five bodies on the trunk of the mid-size coupe and enough people to push, we're guessing they would eventually get it out of there. It shows you how big this game was to RU fans. Worry about getting a stranded car out after the game. A lot of people didn't rush out afterward though. We got one of the first shuttles busses back to the RAC, walked around about 15 minutes to find the car, drove back to the RAC, and drove through the parking lot there before finding our direction home. It was amazing how few people were back at their cars by now and jamming up traffic. It was a breeze getting out. Radio reports said a lot of people had headed to downtown New Brunswick to celebrate, and later traffic started to back up throughout the area, but it seemed like a very delayed rush off the campus.
We came out empty-handed as we saw, found, and bought no game program. We had to listen more closely and watch the scoreboard for game names and stats. Our GGA helped himself to quite a few free, car, air fresheners with RU logos on the way out. He says he's giving them to all his RU bashing acquaintances, but we have a feeling his Christmas tree is not going to have that fresh pine needle scent this year!
Saw some interesting Brian Leonard Farewell Tour t-shirts with RU's 2006 schedule on the back. Pretty neat, but it's amazing how all the notoriety has turned from him to RB Ray Rice. The Coach gives Leonard great credit for being such a great team player, and he is especially for forsaking the NFL draft after his junior season. He only carried five times for 21 yards and made one catch, albeit a big one, to get RU with Ito's FG range for the final three points of the game. They say the NFL scouts won't care about numbers when they look at this draft choice. What they will certainly find is a big heart, something that the NFL and a lot of other pro leagues could use more of.
Rutgers has done a fine job of making these games into spectacles and hopefully they will continue to be for years to come. The band has become a great part of the spirit. The dance team and cheerleaders put on great routines. It makes me want to join an aerobics class there and makes Frank Scarpa want to go back to college. Probably because of the crowd intensity, or maybe because the horse trailer couldn't find a parking space, the Scarlet Knight mascot roamed the field without his valiant, white charger! He looked pretty lost and lonely out on the field without his warhorse.
This game was a great benefit to Rutgers recruiting. Schiano had a crowd of recruits with their Dads and coaches on the Rutgers side of the field. Many donned scarlet jerseys with their names across their backs. Many were seen jumping up and down celebrating the final RU drive with the record crowd that evening. We're sure a few decisions were made to go to RU after the show they saw there this evening. Not only this, but with Schiano's influence in Florida, he's probably going to have a chance to take some prime players away from the spiraling Miami program and from the faltering FSU program. The Knights should not only land in a primary bowl if the win at least two of their three remaining games, but they should land some of the best football prospects in the northeast and Florida as well.
In the annals of CFF history, RU now has a record of 15-24. They are second to Penn State so far as the teams we've seen play the most and win the most. They are tied for first with Navy regarding teams we've seen lose the most . As for Louisville, it must be us, but they are 0-3 in three close games with us. A one-point loss to Army in 1994 , the previously mentioned OT game in 1999, and now this three point final minute loss at the hands of RU. All three were considered upsets.