Rutgers found itself down 14-0 early as Pittsburgh took to the air in a hurry, behind the first half play of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald had eight catches in the first half for 207 yards and two touchdowns.
Rutgers didn’t back down after the early 14-0 setback, as Hart found Ray Pilch (Piscataway, NJ) for a 66-yard pass, giving the Scarlet Knights first and goal on the one yard line as the first quarter ended. Brian Leonard (Gouverneur, NY) capped the drive with a one-yard reception on the first play of the second quarter - his first of four touchdowns on the afternoon.
Pittsburgh continued to stifle the Scarlet Knights defense, as the Panthers scored on six of their nine first half drives. Quarterback Rod Rutherford had four touchdowns in the first half, including three in the air. He ended the game with a career-high 381 yards passing, 347 of which came in the first half. The second half, however, was a totally different story.
The third quarter started with Rutgers trailing 42-7, but the young Scarlet Knights decided to keep fighting in an effort to get back into the contest. Rutgers started their second possession of the half with a bang as Hart hooked up with Shawn Tucker (Parkland, FL) for a 28-yard strike. Tucker, who entered the contest ninth in the BIG EAST in yards per game (53.5), had a career-high 186 yards on nine catches vs. the Panthers. With Rutgers crossing the midfield stripe, Hart handed the ball to Hairston on five of the next nine plays – good for 35 yards – including a four-yard run for another Rutgers score. Hairston ended the game with 76 yards and one touchdown, his eighth of the season.
The Rutgers defense was able to contain the tandem of Fitzgerald and Rutherford the entire second half, as Pittsburgh did not record a first down until the last drive of the game. Fitzgerald only managed to touch the ball one time in second half, as he ran the ball for a loss of two yards. With the Rutgers defense playing strong, the offense took advantage again, putting together a 12-play drive to cut the lead to 42-20. Hart showed excellent poise on the drive, as he was 5-of-8, including a key 19-yard, fourth-down completion to Tucker to extend the drive. Leonard finished the drive with a five-yard reception from Hart for the score.
Pittsburgh’s next drive lasted just two plays, as David Harley (Tallahassee, FL) recovered a fumbled exchange from center to give the Scarlet Knights the ball back at the Panther 24-yard line. Leonard took over from there, as he carried three straight times for the score, cutting the Pittsburgh lead to 42-26.
With the clock ticking down in the fourth quarter, Rutgers kept its composure and managed an 11-play, 90-yard drive to make the score 42-32. Hart completed passes to three receivers - Tucker, Marcus Daniels (Miami, FL) and two to Jerry Andre (Hialeah, FL) – and Leonard rushed for 31 yards, as the Scarlet Knights marched down the field in 3:42 to narrow the gap to 10 points. Leonard’s four touchdowns mark the second time this season a Rutgers back has recorded four scores (Hairston vs. Navy - 9/27/03).
Rutgers was unable to score again as Pittsburgh escaped with the 42-32 victory. Rutgers, which falls to 3-4 on the season, will look to even its record next week when the Scarlet Knights face off with Temple on October 25 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. GAME STATS
Pittsburgh 14 28 0 0 42
Rutgers 0 7 19 6 32
PITTSBURGH J Walker 6 YD RUN (D Abdul KICK)
PITTSBURGH K Wilson 11 YD PASS FROM R Rutherford (D Abdul KICK)
RUTGERS B Leonard 1 YD PASS FROM R Hart (R Sands KICK)
PITTSBURGH R Rutherford 5 YD RUN (D Abdul KICK)
PITTSBURGH L Fitzgerald 43 YD PASS FROM R Rutherford (D Abdul KICK)
PITTSBURGH L Fitzgerald 26 YD PASS FROM R Rutherford (D Abdul KICK)
PITTSBURGH J Walker 55 YD RUN (D Abdul KICK)
RUTGERS J Hairston 4 YD RUN (PAT BLOCKED)
RUTGERS B Leonard 5 YD PASS FROM R Hart (R Sands KICK)
RUTGERS B Leonard 7 YD RUN (TWO-POINT CONVERSION FAILED)
RUTGERS B Leonard 1 YD RUN (TWO-POINT CONVERSION FAILED)
RU in Homecoming Games
Rutgers fell to 45-25-1 in Homecoming games today, snapping a three-game winning streak. RU last played a BIG EAST team on Homecoming in 1999, when Virginia Tech beat the Scarlet Knights, 58-20. The last time Rutgers and Pittsburgh met on Homecoming (1997), the Panthers emerged with a 55-48, double-overtime victory.
Haw’s Streak Comes to an End
Senior CB Brandon Haw’s streak of 18-consecutive starts at cornerback came to end today when he was replaced in the starting lineup by junior Eddie Grimes. Haw started all 12 games last season and the first six this season and leads all active players with 31 career starts, including 11 as a true freshman in 1999. Grimes made his first start of the season and second of his career.
Harley Makes First Career Start
Junior DT David Harley, a junior college transfer from Pasadena City College in California, made his first career start this afternoon, replacing Luis Rivas on the defensive line. Harley is the 34th player to earn a starting assignment this season and the 15th different defensive player to do so.
Fitzgerald Sets Series Record
With a 26-yard TD reception in the second quarter, Pittsburgh WR Larry Fitzgerald broke a Pittsburgh-Rutgers series record for receiving yards. The previous record of 184 was set by Dietrich Jells in a 21-16 Rutgers win during the 1992 season. Fitzgerald finished the first half with eight catches for 207 yards and two TDs. The last time an opponent had 200 receiving yards vs. Rutgers was on Sept. 24, 1994, when Bobby Engram of Penn State finished with 200.
Hairston Extends Streak
Justise Hairston scored on a two-yard run with just over eight minutes remaining in the third quarter, his eighth touchdown of the season. Hairston has scored in each of the last four games (a total of seven TDs) and has the most TDs by a true freshman since Terrell Willis had 13 in 1993. Hairston is also one TD shy of the top 10 list at Rutgers – eight different players are tied for ninth with nine rushing TDs.
Pilch Reaches Career High
Aided by a 66-yard catch in the second quarter, Ray Pilch established a career high for receiving yards with 82 today. Pilch’s previous high was 45 yards (9/14/01 vs. Army), while his previous long catch was 30 yards – last week at WVU.
Moses Extends Streak
With six catches today, WR Tres Moses has now caught multiple passes in all seven games this season. Moses has caught 21 passes in his last four games and has 33 catches for 343 yards this season. Moses already has more catches than any RU receiver since 2000, when Errol Johnson finished the year with 46 catches for 555 yards.
Hart Goes Over 200-Yard Mark for Fourth Time This Season; Sets Career High
With 384 passing yards today, sophomore WB Ryan Hart eclipsed the 200-yard mark for the fourth time in seven games this season. Hart opened the season with three-straight efforts of 200+ yards, throwing for 225 vs. Buffalo, 266 at Michigan State and 250 at Army. Hart’s total was a new career high, eclipsing his previous best of 266 at Michigan State.
Hart Goes Over 300 Yards; Tucker Sets Career High on Same Play
With a 28-yard completion to Shawn Tucker with just under 7:00 left in the game, Hart went over the 300-yark mark in passing yards for the first time in his career. The last RU quarterback to pass for more than 300 yards was Ryan Cubit, who threw for 327 vs. Navy on 10/20/01. The 28 receiving yards pushed Shawn Tucker’s total to 144, besting his 118-yard effort vs. Michigan State on 9/6/03, and he finished the game with 186 yards on a career-best nine catches.
Hart’s total was the highest since Mike McMahon threw for 386 yards vs. Army on Oct. 18, 1997. It is the third-highest single-game total in school history, trailing McMahon’s effort. Hart’s 27 completions and 52 attempts also were career highs. Tucker’s 186 total receiving yards was the fourth-best total in RU history. Mark Twitty had 192 yards against Colgate Nov. 23, 1974, to rank third. Tucker’s total was the best since Oct. 1, 1983, when Andrew Baker tallied 210 receiving yards against Penn State.
Third-Quarter Output is Best Since Army in 2002
Rutgers’ 19-point effort in the third quarter, which cut the deficit to 42-26, represents the best third-quarter effort since the Scarlet Knights scored 20 in the third vs. Army on Sept. 14 last season.
Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano
On the game:
“ It was definitely an interesting game. We really don’t know what team was out there in the first half. I told them at half time that is not our team out there. We could sit there and wallow or the real Rutgers football team can play in the second half.”
On the first half:
“ We were too tense out there. We didn’t do what we practiced all week. We didn’t perform the techniques we practiced. We have better football players then we showed in the first half.”
On the second half:
“ I was proud of our football team. A lot of teams would have thrown in the towel. This team is young and has fight. You don’t spot a team like Pittsburgh 42 points and come back and play with them like we did. This team went out and played game No. 2 in the second half. We were so successful in the second half, because we finally executed.”
On Pittsburgh WR Larry Fitzgerald:
“ Larry Fitzgerald has not been stopped by anyone. We had him double covered and he still caught passes. It is tough when a guy beats you and you have him double covered.”
Nate Jones, Sr., CB
“ It was tough to see us play so well in the second half and fall just short. We didn’t even make that many adjustments for the second half. Our coaches told us to not think about the score and just play our game and focus better. We just needed to execute better, and we were able to in the second half. None of us quit in this game. Coach Schiano told us to not give up, and we woke up in the second half and kept fighting.”
“It is frustrating when we have to chase teams from big deficits. We just have to find ways to play better during the beginning of the game.”
Brian Leonard, So., FB
“ We didn’t come out today as focused as we should have been. We obviously played a better second half, yet it’s still frustrating to come up short today. The game was all about momentum. Pittsburgh had it in the first half, and we were able to gain the momentum in the latter part of the game. They’re a great team and they were able to execute better when they had to.”
“Our coaches told us we had nothing to lose in the second half. Don’t worry about the scoreboard and just play our style of game, and then we’ll be able to execute. We gave everything we had. We’ll be able to put this loss behind us and get ready for our next game.”
“The solid offensive numbers show that this team is improving, but scoring the four touchdowns is not what I’m thinking about. It’s great for our team to put up solid offensive numbers, but a win is what we want. This is a tough loss, and we’ll have to get focused for our next contest.”
Ryan Hart, So., QB
“ Every single guy on this team gave it everything they had in the second half. That is why we performed well.”
“We’re going to come back tomorrow and hopefully be able to carry some of the momentum from the second half forward.”
“[Shawn] Tucker is a great athlete out there and I just throw it up and give him a chance.”
Shawn Tucker, So., WR
“I’m really proud of the guys, we showed heart and determination. What I like is that we never gave up.”
“My stats look good because Ryan gave me a chance out there.”
Pittsburgh Head Coach Walt Harris
“ We are thankful we won. We played great in the first half, probably as well as we could play. But for whatever reason, we didn’t have it in the second half. Give Rutgers a lot of credit, though. They made it hard for us. Fortunately we made some stops at the end of the game and were able to use the clock.”
On Pittsburgh’s inability to run the ball
“ That seems like it’s been a problem the entire year. But the bottom line is that we won the game. We’ll watch the film and see what we can do better.”
On Pittsburgh’s defense
“ The defense preserved the win for us late in the fourth quarter. We didn’t put them in many good situations with turnovers, but they got a big interception for us in the fourth quarter to stop some of the momentum.”
On lack of intensity in the second half
“ Those 17-21 year-olds are an interesting group. Somehow our mindset and intensity slipped at halftime. Execution is a result of focus, and our lack of focus was evident.”
On play of WR Larry Fitzgerald and QB Ron Rutherford
“ They are fine football players and we’re obviously very thankful to have them. Rod played hurt and showed a lot of heart and courage to perform as well as he did. We just hope they can continue to improve and get better. Larry is a phenomenal talent and is a great judge of where to be when the ball is thrown up to him.”
On Rutgers’ second-half comeback
“ They did a nice job. It showed a lot about their character to not give up and let it all hang out like they did.”