Remembering Rutgers' win over Michigan in 1st Big Ten season
This season has been challenging for the Rutgers football team. After losing to Boston College 30-16 last Saturday, the Scarlet Knights (1-2, 0-1) find themselves on a 15-game Power 5 losing streak. Their last Big Ten win was almost two years ago against Illinois.
It doesn’t look to get any easier this weekend, as Rutgers heads out to Ann Arbor to take on No. 20 Michigan.
Since head coach Chris Ash took over at the helm of the Knights in 2016, the Rutgers-Wolverines (2-1, 0-1) matchup has been one of the most lopsided in sports. His first year, the Knights lost 78-0 in a game that most viewed as “rock bottom” for the program at the time.
The only time the game was remotely competitive under Ash was in 2017, when Rutgers last went to the Big House and were within two scores in the second half before losing 35-14.
Last year’s matchup at SHI Stadium started decently well, with sophomore running Isaih Pacheco’s 80-yard touchdown in the second quarter tying the game at 7 and getting the crowd back into it.
But Michigan wore the Knights down after that point, with the game ending in a 42-7 blowout en route to a 1-11 season.
But there’s one game in this matchup that really stands out: 2014. The first year Rutgers was in the Big Ten, it came into the game against the Wolverines with a 4-1 record — the Knights' only loss coming to Penn State at home in week three.
Michigan was not its usual self, dropping games to Utah and Michigan State at home before heading to Piscataway.
The game itself started slowly, as a pair of alumnus kicker Kyle Federico field goals had Rutgers up 6-3 at the end of the first quarter. A 4-yard run from the Wolverines' Devin Gardner would get Michigan up 10-6 early in the second. Then, the turning point came.
Alumnus quarterback Gary Nova, then a senior, ran a play fake on first and 10, stepped up in the pocket and found a wide-open alumnus Andrew Turzilli at the 40-yard line, who took it to the end zone for an 80-yard touchdown. This put the Knights up 12-10, sending a blackout crowd at SHI Stadium into euphoria.
Rutgers would head into the break up 19-17. The Knights' lead would go up to 9 early in the fourth quarter, when Nova threw across his body to Turzilli, who came up with the ball at the goal line after getting tangled with a Wolverine corner.
Michigan would bring it within two, courtesy of a 19-yard touchdown run from Gardner on the next drive. The run set the stage for one of the biggest plays in Rutgers football history.
The Wolverines lined up for a 56-yard field goal with 3 seconds left, looking to get out of New Jersey with a hard-fought win.
Then alumnus Kemoko Turay happened.
The defensive end, who made his name for blocking kicks on the Banks, got his hand on the end of a low kick from Michigan's Matt Wile, securing the Knights' first-ever conference win as a Big Ten team.
It was the most iconic play of the season. It was the most iconic play of the Rutgers Big Ten era.
Five years later, the Knights have severely regressed. Most fans would be surprised if the team gets a single Big Ten win all season. The stands are half-empty. The life has been sucked out of Rutgers football.
But the victory against the Wolverines and that entire 2014 season — which the Knights finished 8-5 with a win in the Quick Lane Bowl — showed something that many thought would never be possible.
Rutgers was capable of competing in the Big Ten.
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