The answer to the question is: one time. They did it once, and only once, and it occurred on November 10, 1984.
While a member of the Big East Conference, the West Virginia Mountaineers have won the conference title seven times and, while a national championship has always eluded them, the team from Morgantown is always in the hunt.
After a fast start in 1984, the Detroit Tigers took the World Series, BYU was the class of NCAA football, and the smart money was on Swale at the Kentucky Derby. In theaters, Short Round was the sidekick to Indiana Jones as he explored the Temple of Doom, and the crew from the Starship Enterprise was searching for Spock.
On television, Alex P. Keaton was extolling the virtues of the Reagan presidency, and it appeared that perhaps author George Orwell was right about Big Brother in his novel, "1984." It seemed that soon, nothing would go unnoticed in society when Miss New Jersey, Suzette Charles, replaced Miss New York (Vanessa Williams) in a Miss America scandal.
It was a warm 70-degree Saturday, and the 25,140 fans in Giants Stadium saw West Virginia roll into East Rutherford, NJ as the No. 18 team in the nation. Rutgers could easily afford to make the trip up the New Jersey Turnpike from the Piscataway campus in those days, as the average price for a gallon of gas was $1.10.
Coach Dick Anderson's Scarlet Knights entered the game with a 5-3 record, having been beaten in their last game, 35-23, by a Boston College team led by Doug Flutie. It was Anderson's first year as the head coach of Rutgers, with junior quarterback Eric Hochberg leading the offense.
Hochberg saw limited action in his first two seasons at Rutgers as the backup QB, but as the starter, he amassed over 1900 yards passing with 9 touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 110.73.
That year, Hochberg had thrown to targets like Andrew Baker, Alan Andrews and Boris Pendergrass, but the three top receivers for the Knights that season were held to a total of just 8 catches for the entire game.
It was the running game that carried the load for the Scarlet Knights, with running back Albert Smith scoring the game's first touchdown on a 7-yard run. With the score at 7-3, it was Smith scoring again, this time from 1 yard out, and the Knights were suddenly leading 14-3.
But Rutgers, rather than sitting back and protecting the lead, continued to pressure head coach Don Nehlen's Mountaineers. When Hochberg threw a 36-yard touchdown strike to Andrew Baker, the Scarlet Knights were ahead 20-3, and for the first time, anticipation of an upset-in-the-making began to move through the crowd.
But the starry-eyed fans were soon slapped back to reality when wide receiver Gary Mullen (7 catches for 152 yards) scored on a 57-yard touchdown pass from Mountaineer quarterback Kevin White. At the half, the Scarlet Knights still held the lead, 20-10.
In the second half, the Knights ground attack looked to shorten the game and keep the clock running. Rutgers ran the ball 51 times in the game for 217 yards on the ground, the majority of the work done by Albert Smith, who took the ball 23 times for 126 yards in the game. When the Knights weren't chewing up real estate on offense, the defense, led by lineman Harry Swayne and linebacker Tyronne Stowe, were making life miserable for the Mountaineers.
A third-quarter field goal by Paul Woodside got WVU to within a touchdown at 20-13, but when Rutgers' kicker Tom Angstadt hit on a clutch 50-yard attempt in the fourth quarter, the Knights were again leading by two scores, 23-13.
With time winding down, the Mountaineers scored on a Tom Gray 1-yard touchdown run, leaving the home crowd restless as they gazed at the scoreboard in Giants Stadium that showed a minute remaining in a 23-19 game.
The game would now come down to West Virginia's attempt to recover the ensuing onside kick. But, when backup receiver Scott Drake fell on the ensuing kickoff, the Knights took possession of the ball and ran out the clock to preserve the 23-19 victory.
Rutgers went on to beat Colgate in the following week and, while they finished 7-3-0, they missed out on a postseason bowl bid. The Mountaineers went on to play in the Bluebonnet Bowl against TCU.
Running back Albert Smith finished his college career with 2,269 yards, and currently ranks 9th all-time in rushing yards at Rutgers, and tied for 8th all-time in touchdowns with 23. Eric Hochberg ranks 6th all-time in passing yards, attempts and completions at Rutgers.
Harry Swayne and Tyronne Stowe went on to NFL careers. Swayne was drafted and converted to an offensive lineman in the pros, where he played from 1987 to 2001. During his long, successful career, he participated in four Super Bowls. Stowe's career spanned from 1987 to 1995, where he saw action with four different teams.
How many times has Rutgers beaten West Virginia when the Mountaineers were a nationally-ranked team? The answer to the question is: one time. They did it once, and only once, and it occurred on November 10, 1984.