Rutgers Football: Best games of the Big East/AAC era

Nelson Chenault-US PRESSWIRE

On the last day of our old conference and on the eve of joining the Big Ten, let's go back in time and relive some of the great memories

A partnership that began in 1991 is finally coming to a close. Rutgers' home for over two decades provided many highs and lows for the Scarlet Knights, some forgettable and some memorable. The Big East changed quite a bit during RU's tenure within the Northeast sports conference, and Rutgers itself changed quite a bit as a member too.

Before we look forward to the promised land of the Big Ten, let's open up the scrapbook and delve deep into nostalgia for the era that was through a countdown of the ten best games of the Big East era:

#10 - In Dodd We Trust

2010: Rutgers 27, Connecticut 24

In what was a season to forget, the annual matchup between the Scarlet Knights and Huskies provided a memorable performance by a little-known prospect out of Lyman, South Carolina. Chas Dodd was a true freshman in 2010 and a backup to Tom Savage, who was, at the time, billed as the program-defining QB commit. A wrist injury to Savage earlier in the season forced the freshman Dodd into action against Randy Edsall's UConn Huskies. With RU down 10  and less than four minutes remaining in the game, Dodd engineers a comeback with a 52-yard pitch and catch to Mark Harrison. K San San Te would ice the game with a game-winner late in the fourth.

#9 - Rally on the Raritan

2013: Rutgers 28, Arkansas 24

Julie Hermann might want to figure out a way to get Arkansas on the schedule more frequently. One year after posting an incredible performance in Fayetteville, QB Gary Nova dug deep for some late-game heroics to push the Knights ahead of the Hogs at High Point Solutions Stadium. Fans were worried that Nova would not be himself after recovering from concussion symptoms, and they were given more reasons for skepticism after the signal-caller had some early turnovers. But two highlight-reel punt returns by speedster Janarion Grant provided the spark RU needed to overcome former B1G troll Bret Bielema.

#8 - First bowl game since 1978

2005 Insight Bowl: Arizona State 45, Rutgers 40

The west coast seems to bring out the barnburner side of the Scarlet Knights, as the first bowl berth in almost three decades saw Rutgers and Arizona State combine for over 1,200 yards of total offense. The postseason game was a long time coming for Jersey native Greg Schiano, who was the program builder that the State University of New Jersey sorely needed. QB Ryan Hart would finish the game with 24-38 passing and three TD tosses, while a young freshman by the name of Ray Rice would rush for over 100 yards.

#7 - Teel gets the TD record

2008: Rutgers 54, Pittsburgh 34

Current QB Gary Nova could learn a thing or two from this performance. Entering the game, Mike Teel had three touchdown passes in seven games. He'd double it by the final whistle sounded against the Fighting 'Staches of Pittsburgh. Teel's stat line would finish at 14 of 21 passing with six touchdowns and one interception against the #17 Panthers. The last time Rutgers beat a ranked team on the road? September 24, 1988, when the Scarlet Knights came away with a 21-16 win over the other team from Pennsylvania, who were ranked #15 at the time.

#6 - Knights stun the Huskies

2009: Rutgers 28, Connecticut 24

It looked like it was all over when true-freshman QB Tom Savage took the field with 33 seconds left to play. Randy Edsall's Huskies were up 24-21 and the Scarlet Knights had plenty of field in front of them, giving Rutgers little hope of winning. In the quickest turn of events, Savage throws an absolute dart to wideout Tim Brown, who raced down the field to give RU the go-ahead score in ten seconds flat. It was a gut-punch to the UConn crowd, who came out to support the memory of Jasper Howard.

#5 - First bowl win in program history

2006 Texas Bowl: Rutgers 37, Kansas State 10

After 137 seasons of playing college football, the program that started it all finally had its bowl win that was a long time coming. The Texas Bowl win capped off a storybook season that saw the Knights finish #12 in the final poll and #7 in total defense. Sophomore RB Ray Rice also finished fourth in the nation in rushing.

#4 - Rutgers upsets No. 2-ranked Bulls

2007: Rutgers 30, South Florida 27

Almost one year after the greatest upset in school history, the Knights played the roll of spoiler once again. South Florida brought a number two ranking into Rutgers Stadium that night, but ended up with a loss and a sea of scarlet at the final whistle. Led by all-star running back Ray Rice, RU also utilized a couple of trick plays to catch the Bulls off guard, including a 15-yard TD pass on a fake field goal in the third quarter.

#3 - Under the lights in SEC country

2012: Rutgers 35, Arkansas 26

This was the type of game that Rutgers fans have waited for since the program rose from the depths in the mid-2000s. After dealing with MAC teams and FCS programs for several seasons, getting a name like Arkansas on the non-con was truly exciting coaches, players, and fans. With a primetime kickoff on national television on an ESPN network, it gave RU the exposure that was worthy of the local media market. All that was needed was the product on the field, and the Knights delivered. A 397 yard, five touchdown performance from Gary Nova affirmed to the college world that Rutgers was real and that 2012 would be a special year.

#2 - The Judge is born

2004: Rutgers 19, Michigan State 14

After three seasons on the banks, Greg Schiano needed a victory to show the RU faithful that better times are near. What better way to do that than beat up a Big Ten opponent in front of a stadium-record crowd that included Tony Soprano? The win was one of the most Rutgers' wins ever, as freshman kicker Jeremy Ito attempted a school-record seven field goals, converting four of them, with the other touchdown score coming on an interception return.

#1 - Pandemonium

2006: Rutgers 28, Louisville 25

No introduction needed:

Honorable Mentions:

2008 International Bowl

Rutgers 52, Ball State 30

In Ray Rice's last game as a Scarlet Knight, he left it all on the field. Rice rushed for a ridiculous 280 yards and four touchdowns as Rutgers romped over Brady Hoke's Cardinals. The performance cemented Rice as one of the greatest Big East players ever, and gave RU it's second straight bowl win after not even going to a bowl for almost three decades.

2012 Rutgers v. Syracuse

Rutgers 23, Syracuse 15

In the last game between these "rivals", Rutgers defense was at its apex, thanks to a monstrous effort from eventual Big East POTY Khaseem Greene. Greene had three forced fumbles and intercepted Cuse QB Ryan Nassib as well, while fellow LB Jamal Merrell added a blocked field goal that ended up being returned for a touchdown. It was a very Rutgers-type win, with the Knights needing only 237 total yards of offense to win the final matchup.

2009 St. Petersburg Bowl

Rutgers 45, UCF 24

The St. Petersburg Bowl was a game that raised the hopes of Rutgers fans everywhere, as true freshmen Tom Savage and Mohamed Sanu put on a show for those that made the trip. Savage finished with a career-high 294 yards and Sanu ran for two scores out of the infamous wildcat formation and had a touchdown grab to boot. The game showed a lot of promise from two young stars, but alas, only one would realize his potential.

What do you think of list? Agree? Disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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