Cincinnati – Rutgers is two wins away from its first Big East title and two wins away from the Orange Bowl.
Facing its most meaningful opponent of the season to date in a traditional house of horrors for the Scarlet Knights, they continue to prove that they are a different team under first-year coach Kyle Flood. Rutgers leaves Nippert Stadium victorious, winning 10-3 over Cincinnati, for the first time in 25 years.
More importantly, Rutgers just made it a two-horse race for the conference title and remain in the driver’s season with the win.
“We knew that we had to come in here and win, something that hasn’t been done since the 80’s,” said middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais. “ … It’s really big. We knew what was at stake and now we’re a part of history.”
The spread was against Rutgers, as was the history with Rutgers being 1-6-1 all-time at Cincinnati. Factor in a hurt Jawan Jamison and No. 22 Rutgers was a true underdog.
With Jamison (ankle) held to three touches, Rutgers found electricity elsewhere. Impact players Mark Harrison and Savon Huggins each awoke from season-long slumbers. Harrison scored his fifth career touchdown at Nippert Stadium on a career-long 71-yard bomb from Gary Nova to open the scoring.
Huggins had his best game since signing with Rutgers two years ago. Consistently finding holes at the line of scrimmage, Huggins exploded for a career-high 179 rushing yards on 41 attempts. Huggins called it the most carries of his life, used to early victories while playing for St. Peter’s Prep.
“If you can rush the ball for 200 yards and not give up any sacks, I think what that does is give you a tremendous opportunity to win the game,” Flood said. “I think if you look at those things over time, they’ll play out pretty strongly. I can’t say enough about coach [Butch] Jones’ team. They’re very difficult to play against, year in and year out.”
It could have been game over much sooner for Rutgers, which blew multiple red zone chances in the game. Nova threw an interception on The Opening possession following a 41-yard pass to Brandon Coleman.
He threw another interception just before halftime on a pass intended for Miles Shuler in the end zone. Low trajectory by kicker Nick Borgese led to a blocked field goal and yet another blown red-zone possession for Rutgers.
But when Rutgers most needed it, Nova and the offense knocked out the kinks and drove 62 yards for the biggest field goal of Borgese’s life – a 42-yarder to ice the game.
“This is huge,” Nova said. “We feel good right now, but we know our work’s not done. We’ve got two more games and we have to finish out strong.”