Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ru Heartbreaker

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ru Heartbreaker

Article excerpt

PISCATAWAY -- Call it shock.

Call it heartbreak.

Call it utter disbelief.

Whatever they called it, the look on the faces of the Rutgers players and their fans told the story.

It was a football tragedy.

The Scarlet Knights blew an 11-point second-half lead -- and their first outright Big East title and BCS bowl bid -- Thursday night, 20-17, to Louisville in their regular-season finale at High Point Solutions Stadium.

"This one hurts, and it's going to hurt," Rutgers first-year coach Kyle Flood said. "But we're going to get through it as a football team."

The dagger in their hearts was John Wallace's 29-yard field goal with 1:41 remaining after James Burgess' interception near midfield of a deflected Gary Nova pass.

"It's my fault," said Nova, referring to that play.

Another interception off Nova by Terell Floyd came with 1:06 remaining on an apparent miscommunication between the quarterback and a receiver who broke off his pattern iced the bitter loss.

Same old Rutgers.

Instead of heading to the Orange Bowl or Sugar Bowl in January, the Scarlet Knights have to settle for a piece of the conference title and a lesser bowl such as the Russell Athletic Bowl or the Belk Bowl, both next month.

Nova was 13-for-28 passing for 284 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Louisville dominated the time of possession, 42:11 to 17:49. Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was 20-for-28 for 263 yards and two TDs.

"They have a tremendous playmaker at the quarterback position," Flood said. "At the end of the game, he made plays and we weren't able to match them in the end."

Added Rutgers defensive lineman Scott Vallone: "We knew he [Bridgewater] had the capability to carry his team and he did just that."

After a strong start for Rutgers, somehow, it all fell apart.

At home. In prime time. On national TV. In front of a sellout crowd.

Against a team that in 2006 Rutgers defeated in another tight game to put itself briefly on the map.

But not this time.

Louisville's comeback was ignited by Bridgewater, who sat out of the first quarter due to a broken left wrist and sprained right ankle suffered last week.

The Cardinals scored two touchdowns in 16 seconds late in the third quarter -- both on Bridgewater scoring passes -- turning a 14- 3 deficit into a 17-14 lead.

Rutgers tied the game at 17 on Nick Borgese's 38-yard field goal with 7:48 remaining.

But then came the interceptions.

Maybe Rutgers isn't as ready for the Big Ten as it thought.

"We didn't make enough plays on offense," said Nova. "We put our defense in tough spots."

Rutgers found itself in the de facto Big East championship Thursday night, easily its biggest game since 2006. The Knights faced West Virginia in the season finale that season vying for eerily similar stakes: its first conference title and a BCS bowl bid. …

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