PISCATAWAY, N.J. (November 29, 2012) – A hard-fought effort by the Rutgers football team fell just short, as Louisville edged the Scarlet Knights, 20-17, Thursday night in front of a sellout crowd at High Point Solutions Stadium.
Two touchdowns from sophomore quarterback Gary Nova (Elmwood Park, N.J.) and a pair of 100-yard receivers – Brandon Coleman (Accokeek, Md.) and Mark Harrison (Stratford, Conn.) – was not enough to contend with Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, who threw for two touchdowns in the third quarter to give the Cardinals a lead they would not relinquish. Bridgewater finished the game 20-for-28 with two touchdowns and 263 yards passing.
“The reality is this, they have a tremendous playmaker at the quarterback position,” said head coach Kyle Flood. “At the end of the game, and even during the game, he made some great plays and we just weren’t able to match him in the end. They were just a little better than we were.”
The Scarlet Knights started their final drive of the contest on their own 30 yard-line with 1:35 remaining in regulation. The offense moved the ball to its own 48 yard-line three plays later, but an interception by Terrell Floyd ended the drive and allowed Louisville to kneel the ball for the victory.
“I’d like to start by thanking the fans. The student section was a tremendous environment for college football and it was a great showcase, not only for our University but our entire state,” said head coach Kyle Flood. “The way they came out and supported us, it’s never been better. It’s as good as any environment we’ve ever had here.”
Louisville received the ball to start the contest, moving into RU territory after converting a fourth-and-one play on its own 49-yard line. A tackle for a loss by senior Steve Beauharnais (Saddle Brook, N.J.) on first down following the conversion set back the Cardinals offense, forcing them into a punting situation from RU’s own 46 yard-line.
Senior Mason Robinson (Somerville, N.J.) received the punt for the Scarlet Knights on their 15 yard-line with 9:25 remaining in the first quarter. RU would waste no time in putting points on the board, as Nova connected with Coleman on a deep crossing route for an 85-yard touchdown strike.
Coleman – who recorded two receptions and 100 yards – broke away from a pair of Louisville defenders after hauling in the reception, streaking up the Cardinals sideline for his 10th touchdown of the season. The score gave the Scarlet Knights a 7-0 advantage with 9:13 left in the first quarter, and marked the first time this season RU scored a touchdown on its first possession. The Coleman touchdown reception also tied a Rutgers single-season record set by Marco Battaglia.
On the Cardinals’ next possession, the offense once again faced a fourth-and-one opportunity. Quarterback Will Stein attempted to sneak for the conversion, but was met by seniors Ka’Lial Glaud (Sicklerville, N.J.) and Scott Vallone (Central Islip, N.Y.) at the line of a scrimmage for no gain.
Louisville began the second quarter with possession following an RU punt, mobilizing an 11-play, 61-yard drive for a 20-yard field goal. The connection brought the score to 7-3 with 9:54 remaining in the first half.
The Scarlet Knights provided an immediate answer, breaking off their second big play of the contest. Nova found Harrison on an out route that broke for a 68-yard touchdown up the Louisville sideline, giving RU a 14-3 advantage with 8:58 remaining in the half. The touchdown pass gave Harrison – who hauled in five receptions for 131 yard – his 18th career receiving score as a Scarlet Knight, good for second place on the school’s all-time list.
In the first half, the RU defense recorded a sack and 11 tackles for loss, holding a Louisville offense averaging 32 points and 431.3 yards a game to three points and 158 yards.
Louisville was able to move 26 yards into RU territory for a shot at points on its first possession. The drive was stalled by an 11-yard sack by Vallone on first-and-10 from RU’s own 26 yard-line. The Cardinals were forced to settle for a 47-yard field goal attempt two plays later, but the attempt came up just short of the uprights, giving the ball back to RU with 10:51 left in the third quarter.
A 36-yard completion to Harrison on a fade route three plays later enabled the Scarlet Knights to attempt a 43-yard field goal attempt of their own. RU initially faked the attempt and successfully converted a 26-yard touchdown pass from sophomore holder J.T. Tartacoff (Skillman, N.J.) to senior tight end D.C. Jefferson (Winter Haven, Fla.), but the play was nullified by a illegal receiver down field penalty.
Louisville received the punt and put together a commanding 14-play, 90-yard drive, making the score 14-10 with 0:49 left in the third quarter. The Cardinals’ possession burned 7:46 from the game clock, due largely to an impressive 7-for-8 passing and 92 yards from Bridgewater. The series culminated with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Bridgewater to Jeremy Wright.
A fumble on the subsequent kickoff return gave Louisville the ball back on the RU 20-yardline with 0:40 remaining in the quarter. Bridgewater found DeVante Parker up the Rutgers sideline for a 20-yard touchdown on the first play, giving the Cardinals their first lead of the contest, 17-14.
With Louisville again driving into RU territory, the defense recorded its first takeaway of the contest on a tipped interception by sophomore Lorenzo Waters (Accokeek, Md.). The defensive back returned the pick
29 yards to the Cardinals’ 42 yard-line, setting up a 38-yard field goal attempt by red-shirt freshman Nick Borgese (Hamburg, N.Y.). Borgese sent the kick through the uprights with 7:48 remaining in regulation, tying the contest at 17-17.
The Scarlet Knights would regain possession after a drive-stalling sack by sophomore Kevin Snyder (Mechanicsburg, Pa.), but an interception of Nova by Louisville’s James Burgess would return possession to the Cardinals possession with 3:53 to go in the contest.
The turnover led to a 29-yard field goal conversion by John Wallace, giving Louisville a 20-17 lead with 1:41 left on the clock. The Cardinals would go onto stop the Scarlet Knights on their next possession to seal their third BIG EAST title in school history.
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POST GAME NOTES
• No. 25 Rutgers (9-3, 5-2 BIG EAST) lost 20-17 to No. 23 Louisville (10-2, 5-2 BIG EAST) Thursday evening at High Point Solutions Stadium. With the loss, Louisville clinched a share of the BIG EAST Championship with Rutgers and Syracuse.
• Despite the loss, Rutgers has a share of its first BIG EAST Championship in school history. The Scarlet Knights will head to a bowl for the seventh time in eight seasons in December or January.
• Rutgers honored its 17-member senior class prior to the game: TE Beau Bachety (Babylon, N.Y.), DE Marvin Booker (Piscataway, N.J.), CB Marcus Cooper (Bloomfield, Conn.), OT R.J. Dill (Mechanicsburg, Pa.), P Justin Doerner (Redondo Beach, Calif.), DE Ka’Lial Glaud (Sicklerville, N.J.), SS Duron Harmon (Magnolia, Del.), WR Mark Harrison (Stratford, Conn.), TE D.C. Jefferson (Winter Haven, Fla.), CB Brandon Jones (Sicklerville, N.J.), DT Scott Vallone (Central Islip, N.Y.), DB Wayne Warren (Salisbury, Md.), OL Devon Watkis (Coram, N.Y.), LB Steve Beauharnais (Saddle Brook, N.J.), DB Mason Robinson (Somerville, N.J.), WR Tim Wright (Wall Township, N.J.), LB Khaseem Greene (Elizabeth, N.J.).
• Sophomore QB Gary Nova (Elmwood Park, N.J.) found sophomore WR Brandon Coleman (Accokeek, Md.) for an 85-yard touchdown pass on the first offensive play of the game for Rutgers. It was Coleman’s 10th receiving touchdown of the season, which tied a Rutgers single-season record (Marco Battaglia, 1995).
• The touchdown was the first of the season for Rutgers on its opening possession.
• Rutgers had two receivers eclipse the 100-yard mark in the same game – Brandon Coleman (100) and Mark Harrison (131). It marked the first time since November 26, 2011 vs. UConn that RU had two receivers go over the century mark in the same game (Coleman and Mohamed Sanu).
• Harrison finished with five receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown. He is now in sole possession of second place in RU history with 18 career touchdown receptions.
• Gary Nova finished 13-of-28 passing for 284 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Nova is second in RU single-season history with 22 touchdown passes in 2012.
• Rutgers finished the season allowing 91 points in BIG EAST play, tied for the ninth fewest points allowed in a season in BIG EAST history. It was the fewest points allowed in school history in BIG EAST action for the Scarlet Knights.
• Rutgers’ 5-2 record in BIG EAST play tied the school record for single-season conference victories.
• Tonight’s game was the first time all season Rutgers has lost when leading at halftime. RU is 5-1 in 2012 when leading at the break.
• Scott Vallone tied a career-high with 2.5 tackles-for-loss.
• Duron Harmon tied a career-high with seven tackles.
• Sophomore SS Lorenzo Waters (Accokeek, Md.) set a career-high with 2.0 tackles-for-loss and recorded his first career interception.
• Khaseem Greene led RU with 10 tackles, the seventh time this season he totaled double-digit tackles this year.