There are many who consider this game to be the biggest victory in Rutgers history, due in large part because of the way in which the game unfolded. Of course, what made the victory even more monumental was the fact that it was against a Big East foe who had been ranked as the No. 3 team in the nation.
Without question, it certainly ranks as the greatest home victory ever. In fact, the game was so thrilling that ESPN named it an "instant classic," and they re-aired the contest 24 hours later.
The 2006 season was not long ago; it was the year that a pre-LeBron James Miami Heat team won the NBA title and the Florida Gators boasted two titles—one in basketball and one in football.
In cinema, The Da Vinci Code was a great mystery, but greater still was the mystery of what would happen on the gridiron when Louisville (8-1) traveled to Rutgers to play an undefeated Scarlet Knights (9-0) squad on a nationally-broadcast ESPN game.
In Piscataway, NJ, head coach Greg Schiano had gotten the Scarlet Knights to believe in themselves, molding a group of players who would go on to play in the NFL into a formidable force in the Big East.
Louisville came in riding the crest of a wave that had them ranked top-five in the nation, and the fans that packed Rutgers Stadium that night saw why the Cardinals had earned that distinction.
Running back Anthony Allen staked the Cardinals to an early 7-0 lead on a 2-yard touchdown run, completing an 80-yard drive in 8 plays. But the Knights struck back less than three minutes later when quarterback Mike Teel hit Tiquan Underwood with a 26-yard scoring strike to tie the game at 7-7.
From there, the hearts of Rutgers fans sank as Louisville scored again and again and again, and with just 6:34 left in the first half, the Scarlet Knights trailed 25-7. At that point, even the most ardent fans must have had serious doubts about the game's outcome.
Little did the 44,111 fans in Rutgers Stadium realize at that time, but no one would be seeing Louisville score again for the remainder of the contest.
Desperately needing a score before the half, the Scarlet Knights got into position with a 67-yard completion from Teel (8-for-21, 189 yards) to future-NFL receiver Kenny Britt. From there, running back Ray Rice swept right on a 4-yard scoring run to bring the score to 25-14 as the half wound to a close.
Rutgers so thoroughly controlled the balance of the game that the Cardinals' No. 2-ranked offense could not muster a first down for the first 26 minutes of the second half.
Ray Rice (22 carries for 131 yards and 2 TDs) scored again from four yards out to close to the game to a three-point deficit in the third quarter, at 25-22. When kicker Jeremy Ito hit a 46-yard field goal with 10:13 left in the game, the score was tied, setting up one of the most famous finishes in the history of Rutgers football.
Neither team could break the tie until, on their final drive, Rutgers drove 80 yards in 11 plays to get into position for Jeremy Ito to try a 33-yard field goal in the final seconds.
Which he then missed.
"It was just a bad kick," Ito would say to reporters after the game of the missed kick. The kicker got a second chance because Louisville had been offsides on the play, and thanks to the five-yard penalty, Ito then lined up and kicked the go-ahead 28-yard field goal—which ended up being the game winner—with :13 seconds left.
From there, the clock ran out on the Cardinals, and the home crowd spilled out onto the field with the final score Rutgers 28, Louisville 25. "It was a little scary at the end with the mob scene," said head coach Greg Schiano after the game. "But it was fun. This is the way college football is supposed to be."
"This is the new Rutgers," said senior fullback Brian Leonard of the victory. The Scarlet Knights would end up going 11-2-0 for the season, finishing the year with a victory over Kansas State in the 2006 Texas Bowl.
Rutgers leads the all-time series with Louisville (7-4-0) but by far, this was the biggest game ever played between these two Big East rivals.