Tailback Jawan Jamison ran for one score, QB Gary Nova threw for another and even the Scarlet Knights special teams scored a TD as Rutgers topped Syracuse, 23-15, in the final game the two teams would play as Big East rivals. The win against Syracuse moved the Knights to a perfect 6-0 on the season for the first time since 2006 and 3-0 in the Big East Conference.
But, it wasn't easy.
Syracuse had scouted the Knights well, bottling up Jamison (64 yards, one TD) and holding him under 100 yards in a game for the first time this season. The Syracuse Orange gave the Scarlet Knights all they could handle, and it was once again up to the defense and special teams to preserve the win.
However, the one thing the Orange didn't appear to account for was the one-man tornado named Khaseem Greene. Greene amassed 14 tackles, three forced fumbles, had 1.5 sacks and even recorded an interception as the senior linebacker made his bid to be Big East defensive player of the week.
"That guy is amazing," said teammate Duron Harmon (as quoted by Dave Hutchinson of The Star-Ledger on NJ.com). Greene leads the team in tackles and sacks this season.
With the score tied 7-7, Syracuse lined up for a go-ahead 32-yard field goal by kicker Ross Krautman. Rutgers LB Jamal Merrell shot through and blocked the kick, which was scooped up by DB Duron Harmon. Harmon then ran with a Scarlet wave escorting him to the end zone to put the Knights up, 14-7.
"That's a huge play," said Rutgers DT Scott Vallone (as reported by the Associated Press by ESPN). "They're going to take the lead and we take that to the house."
The game became nerve-racking for Rutgers fans due to the absence of injured placekicker Kyle Federico.
While he performed well in the fill-in role, backup kicker Nick Borgese missed a critical extra point following a Gary Nova (14-of-23 for 152 yards) touchdown pass to Tyler Kroft in the fourth quarter that would have given the Knights a 17-point lead. Instead, with the score 23-7, Syracuse would need just two touchdowns (and two-point conversion) to tie the game.
Orange QB Ryan Nassib then set about making the crowd of 48,011 at High Point Solutions Stadium squirm in their seats by completing a 40-yard TD to Christopher Clark, with 4:19 left to play. As it has been all season long, it was again up to the Rutgers defense to lock down the game, stopping the final two Syracuse drives of the game to preserve the eight-point win.
With their sixth victory, Rutgers is assured of at least a .500 regular season and is technically bowl eligible. More importantly, the Knights are in first place in their conference, and the win has propelled them to No. 15 in the BCS standings.
“Whether it’s the coaches’ poll or AP or BCS, we’re at the halfway point of the season [and] we have a lot of football to play," said Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood (as quoted by Keith Sargeant of Scarlet Scuttlebutt on MyCentralJersey.com). We won’t be looking at any polls.”