This 1-0 feels just a bit better than other 1-0s.
Rutgers was picked to finish dead last in the conference by many pundits in the preseason, as everyone believed the Knights would struggle with the step up in competition. Now, RU is sitting at 5-1 on the season, including 1-1 in the Big Ten after claiming their first conference victory and need just one more win to become bowl eligible.
From start to finish, it was night to remember for Gary Nova. With no help from the running game, the senior quarterback did everything right in leading his team to a victory - converting long third downs, stepping up in the pocket, evading sacks, and finding tight windows to get his receivers the ball. Running backs Justin Goodwin and Desmon Peoples combined for only 49 rushing yards, and receiver Janarion Grant was the second-leading team rusher with 23 yards on two carries. Andrew Turzilli continues to perform well coming off his great performance in the Tulane game, as he caught two touchdowns from Nova and led the team with 94 yards receiving.
Michigan was building a comeback in the fourth quarter after Rutgers scored early to lead the Wolverines 26-17. Michigan started at its own 31, and led by a strong ground game by Derrick Green, the Wolverines capped the drive with a 19-yard touchdown scamper by Devin Gardner after RU safety Lorenzo Waters completely missed on a sack attempt.
On the ensuing Rutgers drive, the Knights attempted to bleed the clock but couldn't muster a long series, as RU was forced to punt after converting only one third down. A Tim Gleeson punt was downed at the Michigan 14, and Gardner had a chance for a game-winning drive with 6:34 left. The Wolverines were able to move the ball with ease on the Knights, and the sold-out crowd suddenly relived memories from September 13. Just as Michigan was set to move well-inside field goal territory, Rutgers received some help from the officials in stopping the opposing drive. On third and eight at the RU 38-yard line, Devin Gardner passed to Amara Darboh near the right sideline for an apparent first down. The refs then changed their minds and called the play an incompletion, prompting Brady Hoke to challenge the call. Surprisingly, Hoke lost the challenge, as the Darboh seemed to have control before going out of bounds. For the opposition's point of view, click here.
After losing the challenge, Michigan kicker Matt Wile lined up for a 56-yard field goal, only to be blocked by Kemoko Turay. The Dragon now has three blocked kicks on the year. RU was able to kill the clock after blocking Michigan's go-ahead field goal.
We shouldn't diminish the effort from Rutgers in this win by thanking officials for "gifting" the Scarlet Knights a beneficial blown call. They played hard, and Gary Nova certainly deserved the win after a record performance. But Knights fans know all too well the feeling of a call going against them (Louisville 2012 anyone?).
But let's not ruin this moment by wondering what if. We won, and for a much better piece celebrating the victory, read Dave White's piece on why we should savor this moment. Next week, Rutgers gets a bye week to possibly soak in the victory and the first six weeks of the season before a visit to Columbus looms.
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/dq6YSCTtPHM?list=PL0R8-JkEB7Ba03ljXatyCyx5WkuhFRrIX" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>