Many were billing this as the game of the Schiano era. A winnable game against a name opponent on national TV to open up the BE schedule, in his all important fifth year. An opportunity to show the nation that this wasn't the Same Old Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights players played like it in the first half. Rutgers jumped out to an early lead en route to a 27-0 halftime advantage thanks to great plays on offense, defense and special teams. Pitt fought back however, cutting the lead to 37-29, before an interception by S Brandon Renkhart sealed the game for the Knights.
Of course, not everything went right for Rutgers while Pitt was attempting to make a comeback. By the 7:26 mark in the fourth quarter Pitt had stormed back to make it a one possession game, partially aided by two questionable drive- extending pass interference calls against the Rutgers defense. Coach Schiano said that "We will have to take a hard look at those calls to see if they were accurate", and when asked whether his office would be sending a critique to the Big East office, Atheltics Director Bob Mulcahy added: "Of course I can't comment on the calls, but I think it's a wise suggestion".
In spite of the dubious officiating Rutgers hung in there to win the game. Coach Schiano said that he was proud of his squad. He said of the narrow victory - "The way we're winning – I like it because it gets us battle tested.
This victory was the Knights' first victory in a Big East opener since they beat West Virginia en route to a 5-5-1 record in 1995. It was also the first three game winning streak for Rutgers since 1992 – the team's last winning season.
"I don't think about that stuff. I don't think about the thirteen years. I think about one play at a time," Coach Schiano replied when asked about the significance of these milestones.
Tonight also featured the first one hundred yard rushing game by a running back not named Brian Leonard since Justice Hairston rushed for 115 yards against West Virginia in 2003. For freshman Ray Rice it was a coming out party of sorts, as he rushed for 114 yards on 15 carries.
"The balance and burst that I talked about you saw tonight" said Coach Schiano, explaining why Rice's performance was not unexpected.
Also making an unexpected appearance was freshman wide receiver Tiquan Underwood, who took several direct snaps on this way 28 yards rushing on 8 carries.
Coach Schiano revealed that the use of Underwood is a new wrinkle which opposing defenses must now prepare for saying, "He's a great athlete who is hard to defend. We are going to get better at it, its part of our offense. It wasn't just a one game thing. We will continue to see it at practice".