"Coming into the game, I thought this was going to be a 17-10 game one way or the other. It's the most disappointing defensive performance we've had since I've been here.”—Dave Wannstedt.
Rutgers was struggling in the early part of the 2008 campaign, having lost 5 of their first 7 games of the season. That year was dominated by Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators in college football, while in cinema, Indiana Jones returned to the big screen chasing after crystal skulls, and Twilight was setting the hearts of teenage girls aflutter. Long before the world heard about "tiger blood," Charlie Sheen was still riding Two and a Half Men into a top-10 spot on television, and Barack Obama was Time magazine's Person of the Year.
With a record of 2-5, the Scarlet Knights limped into Pittsburgh in late October to face the Panthers who were ranked No. 17 in the nation. Pitt was led by their sensational tailback LeSean McCoy, who helped pace his team to a 5-1 record as they prepared to face Rutgers.
Early in the first quarter, McCoy ripped off a 33-yard touchdown run to put the Panthers up 7-0, and it appeared that Rutgers would suffer their sixth loss of the season. Instead of wilting on the road before the Panthers' faithful, the Scarlet Knights found their offensive stride, and quarterback Mike Teel directed a Rutgers team that seemingly scored at will from that point on, outscoring Pitt by 27 points for the remainder of the game.
Pittsburgh did close the gap at one point to 34-31 after LeSean McCoy's fourth touchdown of the day, but Rutgers' defense shut the door on the Panthers when they had to, preserving the win.
Fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Teel—whose early season performances on the field had drawn booing from the home fans in Piscataway—set a school passing record with six touchdown passes in the game, coupled with 361 yards passing.
"He's been taking the heat for every mistake we made as the entire offense," said Rutgers running back Kordell Young after the game, "and it really wasn't his fault most of the time. He deserves everything he got today."
Teel's targets had equally impressive days where receivers Tim Brown (four catches for 132 yards) snagged two of Teel's TD passes, and future 1st-round draft choice Kenny Britt (five receptions for 143 yards) pulled in three touchdown catches.
The win over Pittsburgh was the turnaround point of the 2008 season as Rutgers went on to four more wins, finishing with a 7-5 record and a berth in the Papajohns.com Bowl. In their postseason game, the Scarlet Knights topped North Carolina State 29-23 to finish with an 8-5 record for the season.
Pittsburgh still holds a 21-8-0 advantage in the series history against Rutgers, but for one day on October 25, 2008, the Scarlet Knights tallied one of the biggest wins in their history, beating the #17-ranked Panthers, 54-34.
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