Pike, Gilyard put Scarlet Knights away early

So much for home-field advantage. With a new stadium, jam-packed and energized student section and a highly experienced offensive line and defensive front seven, the Scarlet Knights seemed poised to continue their seven-game winning streak from last season and make an early push for the Big East title.

Tony Pike, however, was unimpressed by what Rutgers had to offer.

Just two minutes into the game, the Cincinnati quarterback orchestrated an 81-yard touchdown drive where he completed six passes for 71 yards.

He didn't look back from there.

Pike connected for two touchdown passes in the first half – one to senior receiver Mardy Gilyard and one to running back Isaiah Pead – and put together two other drives that put the Bearcats ahead 31-7 at halftime en route to a 47-15 rout.

"We didn't play up to our level and Cincinnati played very well," said head coach Greg Schiano. "It was a bad combination for an opening game. You sit there as a coach, and after the game in my locker, and start saying to yourself ‘OK, where did we not get it done?"

The lone touchdown in the first half for Rutgers came from Joe Martinek who had 55 yards on 15 rushing attempts on the day.

Offensively, senior quarterback Dom Natale simply did not get it done.

Although he connected on eight of 12 passes for 108 yards, he could not string together a single drive after the 10:40-minute drive that evened up the score for Rutgers.

The loudest cheers of the game came to open the second half when heralded true freshman quarterback Tom Savage, and not Natale, emerged from the huddle at quarterback and took the reins for the second half.

Savage quickly strung together a flurry of completions and, although his first drive ended in a punt, he showed glimpses of why he was rated so high as a prospect.

On the day, Savage completed 15 of 23 passes for 135 yards despite being sacked three times and threw his first career touchdown pass – a short strike to senior tight end Shamar Graves.

"Tom was going to play early tonight in some situational things," Schiano said of Savage's designed playing time after the game. "Tom was going to play today and he certainly did. He played a lot. We will have to work through this whole situation at quarterback and figure out what gives us the best chance to win."

But the offense wasn't expected to do much more than it did. The road to a championship this season was supposed to flow through the defense.

But today at Rutgers Stadium, the defense did not hold up its end of the bargain.

They missed tackles, missed areas of the field while in zone coverage and couldn't get sufficient pressure on Pike.

"I thought we were behind physically, mentally, coaching … the whole deal," Schiano said. "I didn't think we did a great job. That's an understatement. I don't think [Cincinnati] punted until the fourth quarter."

With Mardy Gilyard and Tony Pike leading the way with 89 receiving yards and 362 passing yards respectively, the Bearcats combined for 564 total yards of offense and 47 points, the most points given up by Rutgers at home since the 48 it gave up in 2003 against No. 4 Virginia Tech.

"The pace was absolutely crucial today and you saw it in the second possession," said Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly. "You knew what Rutgers was going to do and that was to control the clock and keep us off the field. We knew it was absolutely crucial for us to push the ball."

Both senior safety Zaire Kitchen and junior wide receiver Mason Robinson got hurt during the game, Schiano said, but the extent of either injury is not yet known.

Today's attendance of 53,737 marked the largest crowd in Rutgers Stadium history, eclipsing the previous record crowd of 44,267 set on Oct. 18, 2007 (Rutgers defeated No. 2 USF, 30-27).

Rutgers entered the game riding a seven game winning streak, good enough for fourth longest among all Football Bowl Subdivision teams. The Bearcats put a resounding end to that streak and also dropped Greg Schiano to 5-4 in home openers. Overall, Rutgers falls to 96-36-10 in home openers.

Amidst the disappointment, there were some reasons for hope, including the much-anticipated debut of Tom Savage (see above) and the arrival of Fr. WR Mohamed Sanu. Sanu impressed, finishing the game with 10 receptions for 101 yards.

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