Syracuse RB Antwon Bailey fumbled on the first play of the game, but the defense would get the ball right back for the Orange. Linebacker Dyshawn Davis blitzed untouched two plays later and put a big hit on Rutgers RB Jawan Jamison, who fumbled. Ri'Shard Anderson recovered on the run for SU, and he ran with a convoy 66 yards to the end zone to give SU the early lead.
Rutgers responded with a solid 31-yard return from Jeremy Deering, who approached mid-field. After a false start penalty, the Scarlet Knights gashed the Orange on a 25-yard catch-and-run by fullback Joe Martinek – who broke two tackles along the way. The drive stalled soon after, and San San Te hit the left upright on a long 51-yard field goal attempt.
Both defenses dominated the rest of the first quarter, but Rutgers mounted a solid drive towards the end of the period behind the services of top-notch wideout Mohamed Sanu. He snagged his first catch of the afternoon an a key third down, and he made a one-handed grab two plays later to move RU into field goal position. Te then missed another attempt, this time from 47 yards out.
The Rutgers offense showed a bit more promise on its next possession, but a botched snap resulted in a turnover and a short field for Syracuse. On the very next play though, the Orange tried to set up a screen pass, but quarterback Ryan Nassib's pass was intercepted by defensive lineman Justin Francis – who leaped to snag the ball at its highest point.
On the ensuing drive, Scarlet Knight quarterback Chas Dodd methodically moved the ball down the field despite facing a variety of pressure from SU blitzes. Dodd completed four passes on the drive for 35 yards, and the effort was aided by a personal foul penalty on the Orange. Sanu was targeted by Dodd in the end zone on third-down, but two defenders were in the area on the tail-end of a wheel route to force an incompletion. Te finally made good on an attempt, connecting from 27 yards out.
Nassib came out throwing on the next chance he got, showing patience in waiting for WR Alec Lemon to cross the field on a 29-yard hookup for the team's biggest play of the half. Nassib scrambled for 5 yards two plays later, but Van Chew could not hold onto what would have been a first-down catch on the next play.
Rutgers made another push, but again lost yardage towards the end of the effort before punting. Syracuse sat on the ball for the final 44 seconds, happy with a 7-3 halftime lead.