Last season’s defeat against Louisville still stings
The night of Nov. 29, 2012 vividly plays in the back of Kevin Snyder’s head.
Last year’s 20-17 loss to Louisville should be the freshest memory for the rest of the Rutgers football team for obvious reasons.
“That was something we worked really hard for,” Snyder said. “[A] BCS berth, and they came in our place and took it from us.”
Competing for their first outright Big East Conference Championship in program history, all the Scarlet Knights had to do was deliver a home victory against the Cardinals for an appearance in a BCS bowl.
Louisville turned a 14-3 late-third quarter deficit into a 17-14 comeback thanks to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who orchestrated two scoring drives despite a bad wrist on his non-throwing hand and a sprained right ankle.
Both teams traded field goals, but when junior quarterback Gary Nova attempted to get the Knights’ into field goal range for a potential game-tier, he significantly overthrew junior wide receiver Brandon Coleman for an interception to seal Rutgers’ fate.
It still bothers Nova today.
“We just felt disappointed,” Nova said. “You work all season for that opportunity and we had a shot at it, and we didn’t make the plays we needed to at the end that we needed it. It’s something that’s been driving me all year.”
Two seasons ago, Rutgers literally dropped another victory. Down 16-14 to Louisville in the fourth quarter, a wide open Mark Harrison let a potential go-ahead touchdown slip through his fingertips.
Rutgers will get no favors in this year’s edition of the series Thurday, as Louisville will bring more of a resume to Thursday night’s road matchup.
The Cardinals are the lone AAC member in the AP Top 25 poll, boasting a No. 8 ranking this week. Louisville has defeated its opponents a combined 222-27.
Head coach Kyle Flood is well aware of the talent the Cardinals will bring to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
“Louisville is a tremendous opponent and [Louisville head] coach [Charlie] Strong is as good as there is in the profession,” Flood said. “Probably the best quarterback in the country and one of the more talented teams in general.”
Snyder knows the unique opportunity Thursday night presents, as the programs will never meet again in conference play.
He also understands the pain that comes with a loss, as last year’s defeat will be on his mind when he takes the field.
“It was crushing. It was a combination of things,” Snyder said. “It was Senior Night, it was a blackout and a BCS berth was on the line. So putting those three games together, that’s a lot of pain in one loss.”
Senior Jamal Merrell is listed as the starter at outside linebacker, according to yesterday’s depth chart.
Merrell missed the Knights’ past three games with a kidney injury sustained Sept. 7 against Norfolk State.
“He’s OK. Jamal’s been cleared to play and he will go on Thursday night and be the starter,” Flood said. “I think it makes us better on defense.”
Flood is confident Bridgewater will be the No. 1-overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt he will be the No. 1 pick,” Flood said. “I think Teddy is a tremendous football player and I had a lot of respect for him before we played him last year and even more afterwards.”
The Heisman candidate has 16 touchdown passes this season and 1,562 yards through the air in five games.
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