Knights fall despite furious comeback

In a quirky, incredible game, Rutgers went from the victim of a huge blow out to almost an incredible upset victory. Rutgers finally fell 42-32

This was an incredible game. The Knights went from being the victims of a huge blow out to almost pulling off an incredible upset victory.




Like Rutgers, Tres came up just short.
(AP Photo/Christopher Barth)






Here's how it went.

Pitt opened the game with an almost effortless 80 touchdown drive that included a spectacular 50 yard reception by Larry Fitzgerald. As feared the Panthers simply riddled the Knights secondary and Rutgers looked helpless to stop it.




Jawan Walker opened up the scoring for Pittsburgh.
(AP Photo/Christopher Barth)









The Knights looked to be answering with a beautiful mixed pass / rush drive when Justice Hairston fumbled on the Pittsburgh 33 yard line. On the second play of PItt's second drive, Rob Rutherford hit Larry Fitzgerald with a 45 yard strike to put Pitt right back in scoring position. This time the Knights defense held. RU jammed Larry Fitzgerald at the line, shut down the running game and forced the Panthers to attempt a field goal, which they missed.

A possession change later the Panthers again drove the length of the field against the Knights, again Pitt was riddling the Knight secondary. This time however there was no stopping Pitt. An 11 yard touchdown pass from Rod Rutherford to Chris Wilson put the Panthers up 14-0 with a minute and a half to go in the first quarter.







Pitt's All American Wide Receiver, Larry Fitzgerald had a career game.
(AP Photo/Christopher Barth)







It was at that time when Rutgers finally came to life. Ryan Hart found Ray Pilch for a short completion that Pilch turned into a 66 yard gain. On the next play Hart hit Brian Leonard for a two yard touchdown pass to bring the score to Pittsburgh 14, Rutgers 7.

This time when Pitt got the ball, the Rutgers secondary finally stiffened and forced the Panthers to punt but Tres Moses fumbled the punt setting up the Panthers with a first and ten from the Rutgers 32.  Six plays later Panther quarterback Rob Rutherford took it on a keeper into the Rutgers endzone, putting the Panthers up 21-7.

With Rutgers unable to move the ball, Pitt's passing attack just took over the game. Rutherford hit Larry Fitzgerald for touchdown passes of 44 and 26 yards to put Pitt up 35-7. With the Knights now concentrating on stopping the pass, the running lanes opened. A 55 yard touchdown run by Jawan Walker blew the game open 42-7 with five minutes remaining in the first half. Fitzgerald had a career high 207 yards on eight catches before the first half was over. Rob Rutherford threw for over 300 yards before the first half was over.

At half time Coach Schiano said that it was time for the team to see what they are made of.






Rutgers had real problems handing the Pitt wideouts.
(AP Photo/Christopher Barth)







Rutgers opened up the second half like it was a Div 1A football team. After initially being unable to move the ball, the Knights stopped the Panthers and then marched  80 yards into the Pitt endzone to make the score 41-13 (extra point was blocked).

The Knights held the Panthers to a "three and out" on their next possession. When Rutgers got the ball back Pitt played cautious.  To preserve their lead Pittsburgh was giving the Rutgers receivers a wide cushion. Ryan Hart took advantage of that by alternating between running the ball and throwing under that cushion. When the Panthers tightened up the cushion Hart went over the top to Shawn Tucker to put the ball deep into Pitt territory. Brian Leonard finished off the 14 play drive with a six yard touchdown reception to bring the score to 42-20.

On their next possession Rob Rutherford fumbled the snap. Rutgers David Harley recovered the fumble giving RU and first and ten on the Pittsburgh 25. Brian Leonard, subbing at tailback for an injured Justice Hairston, took the ball in for a score to cut the margin to 42-26. (Two point conversion failed.)

By this time the gas had run out on the Pittsburgh offense. Three straight Pitt possessions went nowhere but the one drive that Rutgers was able to manage was killed by a Brian Leonard fumble in Pitt territory.

With eight minutes left in the fourth quarter the Knights had to get their offense back in gear. At that point RU took the ball deep in its own territory and finally started moving the football again. Brian Leonard ripped off a 13 yard gain, Shawn Tucker pulled in a 28 yard reception and Marcus Daniels pulled in a 12 yard catch to bring it to the Pittsburgh 35. Mixing running and passing Hart engineered the last 35 yards and took the ball into the endzone,  finishing off the drive with one yard Brian Leonard touchdown. The Knights had cut the score to 42-32 but again the two point conversion failed.

Now it was crunch time. Rutgers was down by 10 with only four minutes to go. RU held Pitt to one first down but the time on the clock was down to a precious 2:35 to play in the fourth quarter. Pitt punted and RU took the ball on their own 31. Again, Ryan Hart started to move the team through the air but an interception by Pittsburgh killed the Knights dreams. The Panthers ran down the clock until it was too late for the Knights to come back.


Things to feel good about

  • Rutgers showed resiliency. The team not only didn't quit, but almost came back to win.
  • The skill players - Leonard, Hairston, Tucker continue to impress. Tucker had 9 receptions for 186 yards. That was the fifth highest total in Rutgers history.
  • Schiano showed the ability to make halftime adjustments. After a brutal first half the Knights shut out the Pittsburgh offense in the second half.
  • Ryan Hart got back on track. Hart was 27 for 51. He threw for 384 yards.


Things to be concerned about

  • Rutgers continues to be vulnerable to the pass attack. With even a decent showing the first half, Rutgers would have won this game.
  • Two fumbles and two interceptions. RU continues to have problems with execution.


Box Score


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